- Real Madrid have retained their position as the most valuable European football club for the 3rd consecutive year, ahead of FC Barcelona and Manchester United.
- In the top 10, Paris Saint-Germain moved up to the 8th position, overtaking Tottenham Hotspur, while Juventus returned to the top 10, replacing Arsenal, who have lost six positions since the first, 2016 edition of our ranking.
- Atalanta, Olympique de Marseille and Fenerbahçe are new joiners in this year’s report, while West Ham United, Athletic Club Bilbao and Beşiktaş have dropped out.
- After years of constant growth, the aggregate EV of the 32 top clubs has decreased by EUR 6.1 billion (-15%) year on year.
- Broadcasting and matchday income were impacted to the greatest extent by the pandemic, whereas commercial revenues slightly increased, mainly thanks to agreements signed before the start of the health crisis.
- Only seven of the top 32 clubs reported a net profit, compared to 20 profitable clubs a year before.
Pandemic depresses EV of elite clubs
The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been clearly reflected by the financial performance indicators of Europe’s most prominent football clubs. For the first time in our annual reports, all 29 clubs who participated in our analysis last year suffered an annual decrease in their EV, and, consequently, the aggregate Enterprise Value of the 32 most prominent European football clubs has dropped by 15% year on year (- EUR 6.1 billion), down to EUR 33.6 billion, a value slightly higher than the 2018 level. While all three clubs on the podium increased their EV last year (Los Blancos by 8%, the Blaugrana by 19% and the Red Devils by 4%), this time they suffered an EV decline of 16%, 10% and 20%, respectively. The same three clubs have also dropped below the EUR 3 billion threshold, which they surpassed last year.
The overall EV decrease has been a result of a decline in the 32 clubs’ operating revenues, in contrast to the constant growth over the five pre-COVID seasons, and their deteriorating profitability. Broadcasting and matchday income were impacted to the greatest extent by the pandemic, whereas commercial revenues slightly increased, mainly thanks to
agreements signed before the start of the health crisis. The impact of the pandemic is apparent in clubs’ profitability as well: only seven of the top 32 clubs reported a net profit, while there were 20 profitable clubs in this elite a year before. Despite the latest 15% EV drop mainly caused by COVID-19, the 32 clubs increased their aggregate EV by 27% from 2016 until now.
Top 10 vs. the rest: Is this a different business?
The analysis demonstrates how the operating model of the clubs at the very top of the football pyramid has become noticeably different from that of the rest of other European football clubs’, also providing some context around the diverging interests of clubs and the recent failed attempt to create a breakaway European Super League. Indeed, in each of the six years under scrutiny, the top 10 clubs have performed better than the other 22 clubs combined when considering total operating revenues, staff costs-to-revenue ratio and net result. In particular, in the past season the top 10 clubs’ operating revenues accounted for almost 60% of the total income of all 32 clubs, while they accounted for only a third of the aggregate net loss.
COVID-19 delivering a staggering blow to football clubs beyond Europe’s elite
In this year’s report, we dedicate a chapter to analysis of the wide-scale impacts of the virus. According to our estimation, the top division clubs of all 55 UEFA Member Associations combined are projected to suffer an annual 11% drop in their aggregate operating revenues (-EUR 2.5-2.7bn) in the 2019/20 season, down to levels recorded in the 2016/17 season. Player values have not been immune either – the aggregate market value of the 500 most valuable football players has decreased by 10% between February 2020 and April 2021. Moreover, net result figures for the 2019/20 season give an appalling view of the adverse ramifications of COVID-19. Eighty clubs including all European football giants, that have made public their financial results so far, recorded an aggregate net loss of EUR 2.04 billion: this means that this sample of approximately 10% of the roughly 700 UEFA first division clubs have already racked up more losses in the 2019/20 season than the previous overall negative record of EUR 1.7 billion in losses registered in 2010/11, prior to the introduction of UEFA Financial Fair Play.
Reforms are needed
Besides its damaging financial impacts, the global health crisis has also accentuated the underlying issues already present in football clubs’ business models.
“In today’s highly interconnected football ecosystem, reforms are needed, adopting a holistic approach, involving all stakeholders. A review of governance and redistribution of power, reduction of leagues’ size and rationalisation of match calendars, balance sporting merit with financial predictability, the creation of regional leagues by merging smaller domestic leagues, and last but not least, the redesign of FFP with a focus on more stringent cost control mechanisms – these are some of the reforms to be considered,” Andrea Sartori, KPMG’s Global Head of Sports and author of the report, pointed out.
“For years, industry stakeholders have been focusing on their individual positions to protect the interests of their own organisations, without looking at the collateral effects of their expectations and ambitions on the overall industry. All parties need to realise and accept that football has gone through a vital transformation in recent years, mainly caused by the evolution of consumers’ habits and digitalisation, which, in turn, has led to the globalisation of the industry, benefitting mostly major clubs and leagues. To ameliorate the state of European football, unprecedented flexibility, wisdom, responsibility and cooperation from all parties at all levels is needed. There is no other way to save the “beautiful game” and to make it sustainable for the benefit of all parties involved, above all for players and fans from all over the world, football's most important participants,” Andrea Sartori concluded.