By Andrew Warshaw
September 8 – The head of European club football’s umbrella organisation warned today of the “deep scars” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the probable “cash crisis” for scores of clubs in the months ahead.
Opening the European Club Association’s annual general assembly, with 178 member clubs attending by video conference, ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli (pictured) painted a grim picture of how coronavirus has struck at the financial heart of the club game.
“If there’s one thing that connects all of us, irrespective of whether we are big, medium or small, is that we all have stadiums where gate receipts have been pretty much wiped out,” said Agnelli
“We have also seen very important rebates to the principal broadcasters both at domestic level and at international level.”
“We have seen a £330 million rebate in the Premier League, we have seen a downturn in the Bundesliga domestic rights of about €200 million and we are in the process of finalising the account with UEFA with a reduction of around €575 million for the international club competitions, and that is all money that is not going to be distributed.
“We (European clubs) are looking at a revenue decrease of approximately €4 billion in the next two years.”
The Juventus boss warned there could be a serious knock-on effect in terms of sponsorship revenue.
“No gate receipts and rebates from broadcasters will mean that sponsors will ask for a rebate themselves.
It’s difficult to imagine the same values from sponsors when we renew our current deals, be it shirt or secondary sponsors.”
Predicting that the transfer market would shrink by between 20 and 30%, Agnelli added: “That means less money circulating. This will potentially turn out to be a cash crisis for most of the clubs.
“I fear some of the big clubs will suffer losses that could be bigger than entire federations or confederations. We will have to be very careful in terms of how we manage the end of 2020 and the whole of the 2021 season.”
Agnelli said that while reform of European club competitions post-2024 – the ECA’s big priority even though it has at times sowed division even within its own ranks – had understandably been stalled, it needed to be kick-started sooner rather than later.
“All of us need to start some proper dialogue as soon as possible because the scars of this crisis will be very deep for all of us,” he said. “We need to come together collectively with one united voice.”
Earlier UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin, speaking by video link overseas, praised the efforts of all stakeholders in managing to finish last season in the midst of the chaos caused by Covid-19, culminating in those Champions League and Europa League mini-tournaments in Portugal and Germany in mid-August .
“If I had been sleeping for months and I woke up, I would have thought I was in a movie but we are not in a movie,” said Ceferin.
“Six months ago, everything was shutting down. We cannot say everything is normal now but hopefully it will be soon. If it’s not quite a miracle, I’m very proud of what we all achieved together. In this crazy period, the outlook was not promising at all. But we all had one objective: to put football back on track. Football is not the most important thing but it’s what millions of hearts beat for…even if the fans are not yet back in stadiums.”
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