The full text of the latest Uefa Benchmarking Report is available to anyone who cares to visit the website. Does that send a brief thrill of expectation down your spine? Or is it only me and a few other anoraks; academics, specialist journos et al who look forward to this kind stuff?
The Report gives us a detailed picture of the revenues & costs for the year, 2011, of 679 clubs in the top tiers of 53 Uefa nations – that’s 99% of them. It’s the fifth such Report and, with each one, our picture of the general trends across European football gains more raw data and growing depth. In the entire history of the game, we’ve never had anything like it before.
The ‘prune-juice effect’ of rising income for clubs being more than swallowed up by rising players’ salaries is unmistakeable. Year on year those prunes keep doing their stuff. Across the board, on average, revenues grew by 3% (compared with 2010); meanwhile, the players took home a 5% rise over the same period.
Over the past five years, a 24% increase in income of clubs has been overwhelmed by a 38% increase in players’ salary costs. That’s what’s largely responsible for the fact that almost two thirds of Europe’s top division clubs (63%) report operating losses. The combined net loss for these clubs comes in at €1.7billion – and half of that massive figure is down to just ten clubs…. I’ll bet you could all hazard a pretty good guess at the identity of the culprits.
How many of Europe’s top division clubs have taken part in Uefa competitions over the past decade? The answer is the vast majority of them: 578 clubs (375 of them in the last three years). As an industry across Europe, the clubs employ over 30,000 full time staff (and many more part time); but three quarters of clubs competing in Uefa competitions do not directly own the stadiums they play in.
On average, gates continue to rise, despite a recession which has hit parts of Europe very hard. Consolidated figures for annual attendances at matches in Europe’s top divisions amount to 103million – a rise of 2.5% from the previous year; yet gate receipts are diminishing. The growth in football club income is moving at ten times the growth rate for European economies, yet still the footie industry is mired in debt.
Team managers in general have very short lifespans at clubs: the average time in the job is but a year and a half. Players, however, get much longer: over four years (probably across the length of their contracts). Players’ salaries rose to €6.9billion (an increase of around €330million) in 2011.
There are some pretty chilling numbers in this Report regarding the overall health of the European football business, and it underlines the requirement for clubs to sober up and stay alive. The combination of national club licensing; Uefa’s Financial Fair Play rules (with the threat of penalties and exclusion from Uefa competitions already underway) and individual Leagues, like the Premier League, also seeking to control member clubs’ spending by regulation, indicates a major shift of emphasis.
In the last four seasons, twenty one clubs from fifteen different nations have been excluded from Uefa competitions on grounds of licence breaking or falling foul of the FFP rules. At last, it does appear to be getting through to football’s traditionally thick skulled clubs that ‘it can’t go on like this’ for much longer.
If it is ‘broke’ in so many ways; time to fix it.
Dr Rogan Taylor is the Director of the Football Industry Group at the University of Liverpool. He is also a writer and broadcaster, with five football books and numerous radio and TV contributions. He has acted as a special adviser to The FA, The Premier League and Premier League Clubs.
The views of our regular columnists are independent, and as such do not represent those of Leaders in Football.