The 32nd edition of the publication chronicles the 2021/22 season, as European football is set between the crossroads of some of the most pivotal regulatory changes that the game has ever seen.
Led by the ‘big five’ leagues, the improvement of financial performance across all European leagues resulted in a 7% growth in revenue terms of the European football market (albeit the previous year was impacted by the pandemic).
The ‘big five’ European leagues generated record aggregate revenues of €17.2 billion, outperforming the pre-pandemic benchmark of €17 billion set in 2018/19, driven by €815m growth in commercial revenues across that period.
The Premier League continued to entrench itself as the market leader, with growth in the English top-tier outpacing the rest of Europe’s ’big five’ leagues, as both matchday and commercial revenues reached an all-time high. The Premier League reported a 12% rise in overall revenues in the 2021/22 season, culminating in a record aggregate revenue of £5.5 billion.
As polarisation is a growing challenge, there are increasing calls to seek ways to promote strong competitions to help protect and build fan interest and value for clubs, leagues and governing bodies alike. And the introduction of new regulations across England and Europe are more appropriately timed than ever due to the challenge of emerging leagues.
A plethora of organisations around the world are now invested in the success of clubs and leagues both on and off the pitch and the result is that a balancing act is required as investors, owners and governments all seek success. Whatever that success looks like, it is critical to remember that financial sustainability will underpin arguably Europe’s largest cultural property.
In the 2021/22 season, the ‘big five’ European leagues generated record aggregate revenues of €17.2 billion, outperforming the pre-pandemic benchmark of €17 billion in 2018/19, driven by €815m growth in commercial revenues across that period.
In 2021/22, the ‘big five’ leagues generated record aggregate revenues of €17.2 billion, driven by €815m growth in commercial revenues.
2021/22 saw European football begin recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with restrictions easing across the season.
Whilst more broadly clubs and leagues may still be working through the consequences of the pandemic, the return of fans to stadia resulted in a significant improvement in matchday revenues.
Aggregate commercial revenue grew 17% to €6.3 billion in 2021/22, buoyed by the trend in sponsorship interest towards premium sports properties with global reach, notably the Premier League. Contrastingly, broadcast revenues in 2021/22 have declined 12% to €8.9 billion, largely resulting from the reversal of inflated 2020/21 revenues caused by deferrals from the previous, COVID-19 impacted season.
While 2021/22 aggregate ‘big five’ revenues outperformed pre-pandemic levels, this growth was outpaced by the growth in wage costs (up 15% from 2018/19 to €12.3 billion, especially outside of the Premier League, causing aggregate operating profits to decline by €1.8 billion since 2018/19. It is hoped that the gradual introduction of UEFA’s Financial Sustainability Regulations from 2022/23, increasing involvement of private equity at a league and club level, and government involvement in the regulation of some leagues, will encourage clubs to operate more sustainably in the future.
The 2022/23 season is forecast to see the ‘big five’ leagues generate a record level of €18.2 billion in aggregate revenues. The Premier League is set to extend its dominant position, due to the commencement of new domestic and international broadcast deals in 2022/23, and the continuing commercial appeal of its member clubs, which will see the gap to La Liga increase to €3.3 billion.
In the 2021/22 season Premier League clubs’ revenue increased by 12% to an all-time high of £5.5 billion.
In the 2021/22 season Premier League clubs’ revenue increased by 12% (£586m) to an all-time high of £5.5 billion.
This improvement is largely attributable to record matchday revenue as fans returned to stadia without restriction for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, and commercial revenue also reached an all-time high. Looking ahead, the 2022/23 season is expected be another record year with revenue expected to reach just shy of £5.8 billion as the league’s new and lucrative international broadcasting rights deals commence.
In the 2021/22 season matchday revenue increased to £763m, an increase of £732m on the 2020/21 season which was played behind closed doors. This surpasses pre-pandemic levels of £684m in the 2018/19 season, with average league attendance at an all-time high (39,950) and average stadium utilisation of 98%.
This increase was largely driven by strong average attendances at those clubs which participated in the 2021/22 season but not the 2018/19 season. With fans back supporting their clubs on matchdays and the COVID-19 pandemic hopefully behind us, matchday revenues are expected to stabilise moving forward with projected revenues largely driven by changes in club mix, and therefore changes in stadium capacities and attendances.
Commercial revenue also benefitted from fans’ heightened appetite for the game after enforced time away, increasing by £245m (16%) to reach a new high of £1.7 billion.
Broadcast revenue reduced by 12% (£391m) to £3 billion in 2021/22. This was expected due to the postponement of matches related to the 2019/20 season into the 2020/21 financial year, which resulted in a deferral of associated broadcast revenues.
As fans returned to stadia in 2021/22, EFL clubs reported total revenue of over £1 billion.
The wage/revenue ratio for a majority of clubs remains unsustainably high, as do the losses incurred.
In 2021/22, Championship clubs recorded a cumulative revenue of £676m, an increase of £76m (13%) since the 2020/21 season. This was predominantly a result of changing club mix, with the six clubs joining the division from the Premier League and League One having an average revenue of £41m in 2021/22, replacing clubs with an average revenue of £27m. Excluding these clubs, the revenue of the 18 consistent clubs actually fell by £5m (1%).
This is in part due to broadcast revenue falling to £382m from a record peak of £456m in 2020/21, when revenue from the deferred matches from the 2019/20 season was recognised. The commercial revenue of Championship clubs increased to £164m in 2021/22 (up 28%), as merchandising, in-stadia sponsorship sales and the hosting of non-football events bounced back following the pandemic, which saw 13 of the 18 consistent clubs report an uplift of at least £1m from these sources.
Similarly, matchday revenue generated by Championship clubs improved to £130m (2020/21: £16m) as football stadia across the EFL welcomed fans back. However, this is still behind pre-pandemic levels (2018/19: £166m).
Clubs in both League One and League Two reported an increase in revenue in 2021/22. League One clubs reported an increase of 71% to £220m, with the average club generating £9m in revenue. Meanwhile, League Two clubs reported an increase of 32% to £124m (an average revenue of £5m per club).
In the 2021/22 season WSL clubs generated £32m in aggregate revenue, up 60% relative to the prior season.
A rise in broadcast and commercial revenues drive growth in WSL aggregate club revenues.
In a record-breaking year for women’s football, aggregate revenue for the 12 WSL clubs increased by 60%, from £20m to £32m in 2021/22.
Broadcast revenues increased as The Football Association’s deal with Sky Sports and the BBC commenced in the 2021/22 season representing a reported £8m per year. Recognised as the largest broadcast deal of any professional women’s football league, this is the first time that broadcast rights to the WSL have been auctioned separately from the men’s game.
Commercial revenue was a major revenue driver for both the league and WSL clubs, a key theme of the women’s game that we expect will continue in future seasons.
At the club level, commercial revenue can be captured separately from the men’s team, or as part of a bundled deal across all of a club’s teams. For example, 10 out of 12 WSL clubs had the same front of shirt sponsor as their men’s team in the 2021/22 season, allowing clubs to tap into wider sponsorship agreements (which include some of the highest revenue-generating deals in European football).
Matchday revenues throughout the league accounted for less than 10% of WSL clubs’ revenues in 2021/22, with average league attendance of 1,923. However, the success of the Lionesses in the UEFA Women’s Euros has prompted a significant uplift in attendances, nearly a 200% increase to an average of 5,616 in 2022/23, which will likely provide a boost to matchday revenue for future seasons.