Europe’s leagues generate record €21bn but obesity warnings issued on Big 5 clubs

January 17 – The 712 top-flight clubs in Europe’s 55 leagues earned a record €21 billion in the 2018 financial year, up by 20% according to the latest “benchmarking” report from UEFA.

But as usual a vast proportion of that figure was accrued by clubs in the five biggest leagues – England, Germany, Spain, France and Italy. In fact the share of revenues generated by ‘big 5’ leagues reached a record high of 75%, said UEFA, with just 30 clubs responsible for more than half the entire sum.

On the other side of the equation, the wage bill of the 98 so-called ‘big 5’ clubs increased by more than €1bn, representing 88 % of all wage growth, and these clubs were responsible for 85% of gross transfer spending and 75% of top division transfer earnings.

Whilst the vast majority of clubs were less hit by debt than before financial fair play rules were introduced in 2011, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin sounded a familiar warning about the gap between the haves and have-nots. Even among the haves, the gap was stark, Premier League clubs making €2 billion more than the Bundesliga.

Ceferin, whose oft-repeated stock phrase is “competitive balance”, described the improved financial landscape as “a testament to the success of FFP regulations, the stable European football ecosystem and sustained and sensible investment”.

But he added: “The report highlights a number of threats to continued European football stability and success. These include the risks of globalisation-fuelled revenue polarisation, of a fragmenting media landscape, and of cases of over-dependence on transfer activity revenue.”

“The report also shows that European club football is strong, united and resilient, and I am certain that European football can and will overcome these challenges and others just as successfully as it dealt with the threat of spiralling losses in the recent past.”

The report highlighted the fact that, with tv profits spiralling through the roof,  wages had risen accordingly – by 9.4%, or €1.2 billion – more, significantly, than the increase in revenue.

Wages are now in fact responsible for 64% of clubs’ revenues.

“UEFA will monitor this trend carefully, as another year of strong wage growth in 2019 could further eat into operating profits,” said UEFA.

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