The sun stops shining for the European elite

AROUND € 6 billion has been wiped off the value of Europe’s top football clubs according to KPMG Football Benchmark’s European Elite (EE) report for 2021. Covid-19 left its mark on the continent’s leading clubs, the top 32 losing 15% of their enterprise value (EV) over the past year. What’s more, the pandemic impacted the financial performance of the top 80 clubs, between them they incurred net losses of over € 2 billion. In 2019, 20 of the 32 clubs in KPMG’s report made a profit, but in 2020, only seven were not in the red.

KPMG’s report comes at a time when the word “elite” is being redefined European football. The aborted attempt to create a European Super League  (ESL) threatened to redraw the game’s global map, but there can be no doubting the influence or intent of the 12 clubs who acted as standard bearers for the breakaway competition.

The EE top 10 comprised eight of the 12 ESL advocates. Real Madrid, for the third year running, topped the list with an EV of € 2.9 billion, followed by rivals Barcelona whose EV is only € 40 million lower. Manchester United were third with an EV of € 2.66 billion. All of this year’s top three were in the € 3 billion bracket a year ago. While Real Madrid and Barcelona’s EV decline was 16% and 10% respectively, Manchester United lost 20% of their value.

All three clubs experienced revenue declines, United suffering a 19% deterioration in their income. United are just one of eight Premier League clubs in the top 32, but the league’s combined EV drop was 18%. While five of the leading pack were from the English league, Arsenal fell out of the top 10, a reflection of the London club’s recent decline on and off the pitch. West Ham United dropped out of the 32, while Atalanta, Fenerbahce and Olympique Marseille the new entrants.

Of Europe’s big five leagues, Serie A and Ligue 1 sustained the most damage from the pandemic, although the Bundesliga endured a 30% decrease in matchday revenues. 

After a period of growth, the top 32 had a combined value of € 33.6 billion and of this total, the 12 ESL clubs contributed € 22 billion. This underlined the power and influence of these clubs. KPMG’s research revealed they also account for 74% of social media popularity among football’s top clubs.

KPMG’s elite included five league champions, six runners-up and 10 clubs who finished third or fourth in their domestic leagues. The lowest-placed member of the 32 was Schalke, who were relegated from the Bundesliga.

The past year has been very traumatic for football, especially in the lower leagues and at grass roots level, but the pandemic has provided an opportunity to reassess the modern game and the business models of the leading clubs. KPMG made a number of suggestions in their report, but they were adamant that the entrenched and long-lasting impact of the covid-19 crisis has accelerated the need for structural change. 


Photo: PA

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