A messy end to a golden era for Juventus

IT’S ALWAYS a mystery why seemingly intelligent people continue to flirt with financial malpractice in this age of intense technological scrutiny. Even the most cunning criminals and canny operators are invariably found out by governing bodies, the law or accountants. This leaves you wondering how professional people can either be so stupid or careless, not to mention occasionally dishonest.

Juventus are in the spotlight again for suspicions over their financial reporting. It’s not the first time the club has been in trouble, their current era of success came after the so-called Calciopoli scandal which involved the illegal selection of favourable referees, among other breaches. Juve were stripped of their 2005 title and were relegated to Serie B.

Juve enjoyed a run of spectacular success from 2011-12 to 2020-21 which included nine scudettos and five Coppa Italia victories. They also reached two UEFA Champions finals in 2015 and 2017 in which they lost to Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively. Juventus were, supposedly, the only Italian club that could seriously challenge the Spanish giants and Bayern Munich, but they were well beaten in their two finals.

Under president Andrea Agnelli, Juve not only won trophies, they also became a more modern, forward-looking club, moving to a new stadium which they owned, giving them a competitive edge over their domestic rivals. They also grasped the marketing bug and relaunched their brand, including a controversial new corporate logo. In 2018, they thought they were sending a signal of intent to European football by signing Cristiano Ronaldo, but in truth, his arrival marked a gradual decline in their fortunes. If CR7 was supposed to be the catalyst for UEFA Champions League success, it didn’t work and he left in 2021 with Juventus’s team clearly past its best.

Agnelli and the rest of the board have resigned amid concerns over the club’s financial practices. Among the questions being asked are the valuations of players in some transfers, such as exchange deals, and the arrangements over player wages during the height of the pandemic. But after investigations by the public prosecutor’s office in Turin and Italian market regulator Consob, Juventus have had to change the way in which they accounted for player payments for the financial years ending June 2020 and June 2021. Players had agreed to waive part of their salaries because of Covid-19 and later agreed “loyalty” bonuses. Consob believes the club has yet to show the logic behind the fair value ascribed to players in transfers with other clubs. Agnelli and 15 others at the club have been investigated but the saga is likely to run for a while as it’s still early days.  As they all resigned, the club continued to deny any wrongdoing, but Agnelli admitted there was a lack of unity which undermined the management of Juventus. The club has, apparently, agreed to amend its accounts for 2021-22.

The pandemic was tough for Italy’s top clubs and in the past two seasons, Juventus have made pre-tax losses of € 460 million and has generated a deficit of over € 600 million in the past five years. At the same time, their wage bill in 2021-22 absorbed 85% of income and their net debt now totals more than € 150 million, a substantial amount but over € 200 million less than the 2020-21 season. In 2021-22, the club had to raise € 400 million from its shareholders, taking the total of fresh equity raised since 2019 to over € 700 million. Investors and the market are not impressed, however, and the stock price fell on the news of the resignations. In 2022, the Juventus share price has dropped by almost 40% and the club’s market value is now around € 700 million.

What will the future hold for Agnelli, whose family’s listed vehicle, Exor, is the majority owner of Juventus? His ambitions have been battered by a series of setbacks, notably the ill-fated European Super League project, which meant he had to step away from the European Club Association and UEFA.  As for Juventus, the current season has been troubled, from a poor start to the campaign to an early exit in the UEFA Champions League. And this new scandal really highlights the danger of flying too close to the sun. Icarus may have been Greek, but he has been soaring over the city of Turin for some time. The question is, how long will it take for Juventus to repair its reputation once more?

Juventus 2021-22 loss is staggering, but things could actually be worse

JUVENTUS have not had the best start to 2022-23 and already some people are calling for the head of coach Max Allegri. After a decade of dominating Italian football, Juve now have stiff competition in Serie A and in the past two seasons, Inter Milan and AC Milan have won the scudetto. Moreover, Juve haven’t been quite the same club since the Cristiano Ronaldo years.

The pandemic exposed some of the shortcomings of Italian football’s business model and Juve have suffered more than most. In 2020-21, they made a loss of over € 200 million and in 2021-22, the deficit widened to a net loss of € 254.3 million, the highest ever in Italian football history. They have now made a loss for five successive years.

It’s a very worrying situation, but Juve’s finances would have been even more challenging if they hadn’t completed a capital raising exercise in December 2021 that generated close to € 400 million. While this strengthened Juve’s equity, it was the second such exercise in a three-year period, following € 300 million raised in 2019.

In 2021-22, Juve’s revenues fell by 7.8% to € 443.4 million, largely due to under-performance in Serie A and the UEFA Champions League. After the complete collapse of income from ticket sales in 2020-21, Juve’s matchday revenues recovered to € 32.3 million, but around half the peak year of 2018-19. Broadcasting earnings dropped by 28% to € 170.5 million, a reflection of the club’s decline on the pitch since the highs of 2017 when TV income was over £ 234 million.

Juventus last five seasons

 Revenues €mPre-tax loss €mWages €mWage- income ratio
2021-22443.4252.535179%
2020-21480.720832367%
2019-205738228450%
2018-196212732853%
2017-185051025951%

Commercially, Juve’s income was also down, from € 206 million to € 199 million. And yet, Juve’s wage bill went up by 9% to £ 351 million, representing a wage-to-income of 79%, seven percentage points higher than 2020-21. More positively, Juve have cut their net debt to € 153 million and have cash liquidity of around € 70 million. Of their gross debt (€ 223 million), € 176 million is owed to bondholders and € 6 million to banks.

The club has proposed a three-year plan for the years 2022-23 to 2024-25, which includes strategic and operating initiatives to maintain sporting competitiveness, economic and financial balance as well as improved operations and brand development. Interestingly, it also highlights the intention to take an active role in the reform and evolution process of the sporting industry. Juve’s ambition is to go shoulder-to-shoulder with Europe’s top clubs such as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester City. The club was among those advocating the creation of a European Super League in 2021, a proposal that appears to have been aborted for now. However, the club’s chairman, Andrea Agnelli, was among the most enthusiastic supporters of this controversial project, so if global economic conditions worsen, it is likely another attempt will be made.

Juventus were beaten in two Champions League finals in 2015 and 2017, but since then, they have reached one quarter-final and three times could not get beyond the round of 16. It is arguable that the Cristiano Ronaldo experiment was not a big success, from both a playing perspective and financially.

Juve have been one of the most active clubs in the transfer market over the past five seasons (2018-19 to 2022-23). Only Chelsea (€ 900 million) have spent more than Juve’s € 877.9 million and their net spend of € 288 million is among the 10 highest worldwide. Clearly, this level of spending is unsustainable. In 2022-23, their transfer balance sheet is currently a positive after they sold Matthijs de Ligt to Bayern Munich for € 67 million. They picked up two notable big names on free transfers in Ángel Di Maria and Paul Pogba, both of whom are older than the likes of de Ligt.

Juventus cannot afford many more slip-ups in the Champions League in 2022-23, they’ve lost their first two games in the group stage, against Paris Saint-Germain and Benfica, so more setbacks may consign them to the Europa League in the knockout phase. That would surely impact their revenue generation into 2023.