COVID causes Premier League revenues to fall for first time

Latest Annual Review of Football Finance from Deloitte reveals the COVID-19 pandemic saw the first fall in revenues in the history of the Premier League. Tony McDonough reports

Liverpool FC, football, Kop, stadium, fans, supporters
The return of supporters to stadiums will help Premier League revenues recover


Premier League football clubs saw their first combined annual drop in revenues since the formation of the division in 1992 as the COVID-19 pandemic hit football finances hard.

According to the 30th Annual Review of Football Finance from Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, Premier League clubs’ revenue fell by 13% from a record £5.2bn in 2018/19 to £4.5bn in 2019/20.

This was the first drop in total revenue in Premier League history and the lowest total revenue level since 2015/16. Aggregate operating profits declined by £782m to £55m, with more than half of the Premier League’s clubs (11) reporting an operating loss (four clubs in 2018/19).

However, Deloitte predicts revenues will rebound in 2020/21 due to the deferral of some revenue from the 2019/20 financial year before reaching a new record high in 2021/22 – matchday attendances permitting.

Click here to read the full Deloitte report

When the first lockdown was imposed in the UK in March 2020, the football programme was suspended. Games resumed in the summer but without spectators leading to a huge drop in lucrative matchday revenues. A small number of spectators returned for a short period later in the year before the stadium closed again for the final lockdown.

Both Liverpool and Everton’s most recent financial results only partly cover the period of the pandemic. Liverpool reported a pre-tax loss of £46m for the 12 months to May 31, 2020. When the next set of results are published it is expected the club’s losses due to COVID-19 could be as high as £120m.

Everton reported annual pre-tax losses of £134m in the year to June 30, 2020. The club, which has now started work on its new £500m stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock, said it had taken a £67.3m hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering a loss of broadcasting, commercial and matchday revenues.

Everton Football Club
Everton FC recorded losses for £134m as the pandemic hit hard


Despite accounting for a third of all revenue generated in the top four divisions in England, the North West’s top seven clubs saw revenue decrease in 2019/20. Liverpool, Everton, Manchester United, Manchester City, Burnley, Blackburn Rovers and Preston North End saw total league attendances for the 2019/20 season to the point of suspension hit 3.5m.

Premier League clubs’ cumulative net debt, primarily consisting of interest free loans from owners, reached a record level of just under £4bn in 2019/20, up from £3.5bn in 2018/19.

Across Europe, clubs saw a combined drop in revenue for the first time since the financial crisis more than a decade ago. Overall revenues in 2019/20 fell by £3.4bn to £22.1bn. The big five European leagues saw revenues fall 11% to £15bn.

Championship clubs’ cumulative operating and pre-tax losses both worsened in 2019/20, with operating losses increasing by 16% to £434m as falling revenues could not be offset by similar reductions in wage costs.

Tim Bridge, director in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, said: “We’re now beginning to see the scale of the financial impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on clubs in the North West.

“As Championship clubs, and to a greater extent, League 1 and League 2 clubs rely more heavily on matchday revenue than Premier League clubs, it will likely be sobering to see the impact of a full season with very limited matchday attendance in next year’s edition.

“Despite the initial shock of COVID-19, football clubs have shown great resilience during this testing period and it is hoped that the 2021/22 season will be a step towards normality, resulting in a strong recovery in revenue terms across the coming seasons.”

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