A new report by KPMG has laid bare the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the champions of Europe’s six prominent soccer leagues over the past season.

All six champions analysed in the European Champions Report 2021 have now recorded a decrease in their operating revenues: Juventus, Paris Saint-Germain and Porto registered a double-digit year-on-year drop, while Bayern Munich, Liverpool and Real Madrid reported more modest decreases in operating revenues, mainly due to their ability to increase commercial income.

The German and the Spanish champions have also been rare exceptions in the entire football industry as they managed to register net profits, while the other clubs saw significant losses for the financial year, which ended in May/June 2020.

This is the 5th annual edition of the report which reviews and compares the most relevant business performance indicators of the champions of Europe’s six most prominent leagues.

The past season was relatively competitive within the scope of our analysis, with three champions – Juventus, Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain – regaining their domestic title. Newcomers include Liverpool winning the Premier League for the first time in 30 years, Porto reclaiming the Portuguese title from last year’s winners Benfica, and Real Madrid winning their 34th LaLiga trophy by regaining the throne from Barcelona after two years.

“While recent pre-COVID-19 seasons demonstrated constant and stable growth for almost all the champions of Europe’s top leagues, the past season has been distressing for all, albeit to various extents,” according to the report.

“The coronavirus crisis has questioned the financial sustainability of the football ecosystem as a whole and further exposed its fragility.”

“Even prior to the pandemic, inflated players’ salary, coupled with growing transfer and agent fees, placed a significant strain on clubs’ finances,” said Andrea Sartori, KPMG’s Global Head of Sports and author of the report.

“The crisis has magnified these flaws in the current business model. Football clubs suddenly had to deal with liquidity concerns with all of their income streams affected by the absence of gate receipts, in addition to the renegotiation, suspension or cancellation of payments from media and commercial agreements.”

Key conclusions of the report:

  • Operating revenues (net of transfer proceeds) have decreased for all the champions analyzed in our report.
  • Despite an 8% drop in revenues, Real Madrid registered the highest overall income of EUR 681.2m among the champions.
  • With many games cancelled or played behind closed doors, matchday income suffered the biggest blow for all clubs except for Porto. Real Madrid lost the most in absolute terms (-EUR 34.9m, a 22% year-on-year drop) while Porto’s EUR 4.2m decrease constituted the highest annual decline in percentage terms (-34%).
  • Broadcasting income also decreased for all these champions, with UEFA Champions League performance also playing a role: finalists Bayern München and Paris Saint-Germain registered only a 4% decrease in their TV income, while Porto’s 63% drop in TV rights was mainly a consequence of their early exit in the UCL qualifying rounds.
  • Liverpool, Bayern München and Real Madrid could increase their commercial income by 14%, 4% and 2%, respectively.
  • From a comparability perspective, the delay and/or cancellation of matches, in some cases played after the financial year-end closure, and the uncertainty over potential renegotiations of payments from media and commercial agreements – including UEFA-related income – have posed challenges on how revenues and costs have been accounted for by clubs3.

Regarding operating revenues, FC Porto registered the biggest year-on-year decline in percentage terms (-50%), mainly a consequence of their early exit in the Champions League qualifying rounds, while Paris Saint-Germain FC suffered the largest blow in absolute terms (-EUR 95.4m). FC Bayern München can boast the least severe drop (-EUR 18.3m, a 3% decline), whereas Real Madrid CF registered the highest operating income (EUR 681.2 million) among the champions, despite an 8% decrease.

With many games cancelled or played behind closed doors, matchday income suffered the biggest blow at almost every club. Two exceptions were Liverpool FC and FC Porto, whose broadcasting revenue diminished most, primarily due to their poorer UEFA Champions League performance compared to the previous season. Real Madrid CF lost the most in matchday income in absolute terms (-EUR 34.9m, a 22% year-on-year drop), while FC Porto’s EUR 4.2m decrease constituted the greatest annual decline in percentage terms (-34%) among the champions.

Broadcasting revenues have also been hit, but to various extents. With fewer games played until June in both domestic leagues and UEFA competitions, TV income was reduced accordingly for the past season, while the matches played in July and August, completing the season, in most cases will be accounted for in the current 2020/21 season. Clubs who progressed further in the Champions League could benefit from higher UEFA contributions: both finalists FC Bayern München and Paris Saint-Germain FC, indeed, registered only 4% decreases in their TV income, while those eliminated in the last-16 (Real Madrid CF, FC Juventus and Liverpool FC) suffered an annual decrease of 12%, 19% and 22%, respectively. In contrast, FC Porto’s 63% drop in TV rights was mainly a result of their poor Champions League performance, and thus missing out on the lucrative media income from the main European club tournament for the first time in eight years.

Commercial income for the champions vary to an even greater extent – Liverpool FC, FC Bayern München and Real Madrid CF could even increase their income from commercial activities by 14%, 4% and 2%, respectively, Juventus FC remained stable, while FC Porto and PSG both registered an 18% drop. Nevertheless, commercial has become the income stream with the largest share of total operating revenues at five of the six clubs reviewed, while broadcasting bore the biggest share for most of the champions a year before. Although noticeably smaller than for other champions, broadcasting revenue remained the key source for FC Porto, despite suffering a 63% decrease in TV rights with their subordinate UEFA performance, as the club’s recent, 10-year individual domestic TV deal provides a stable income.

While several clubs managed to reduce players’ wages, not all of them were able to decrease operating costs in proportion to the harsh drop in operating revenues. FC Bayern München and Juventus FC were successful in reducing staff costs (by 6% and 13% respectively), by having agreed a pay cut by the playing staff. In contrast, staff costs at Real Madrid CF increased by 4%, despite players having settled on a 10% temporary wage cut during the season, and thus the club registered the highest staff costs (EUR 411 million) among the champions. PSG registered an even higher (10%) growth in staff costs, mainly due to a growth in overall wages with some high-profile new signings and high employee social tax charges in France.

While last year all champions managed to record a profit after tax, with Juventus FC being the only exception, this time FC Bayern München and Real Madrid CF are the only clubs to register a modest profit (EUR 5.9 million and EUR 0.3 million, respectively), as our chart below shows. On the other end, PSG’s net loss of EUR 125.8 million is the highest, also due to the fact that the French Ligue 1 was the only top domestic European league to be shortened as opposed to be delayed and completed later.

“A crisis almost always provides the opportunity to highlight major failings in the business model, and also to drive innovation and evolution – so it is encouraging to see football’s governing bodies, associations and clubs discussing reforms regarding competitions calendar, cost control measures, alterations to the economics and governance of domestic and European competitions or in the transfer system, among others,” added Sartori.

“Our call at the outbreak of the crisis almost a year ago remains valid: the unprecedented complexity of issues in the new reality requires unprecedented flexibility, wisdom, responsibility and cooperation from all parties at all levels.”

To dive deeper into the KPMG Football Benchmark series of reports click here.


Sport for Business Partners