The European football market shrunk by 13 per cent in the first few months of the pandemic, according to analysis by Deloitte.
Total revenue fell by €3.7bn (£3.4bn) to €25.2bn (£22.1bn) in 2019-20, the first decrease since the global financial crisis struck more than a decade earlier.
Clubs suffered as leagues were postponed and resumed in empty stadia, resulting in lost revenue from ticketing and broadcasting.
“It will be a number of years before the full financial impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on European football is known but we’re now beginning to see the scale,” said Deloitte’s Dan Jones.
Premier League revenue down 13 per cent but still biggest in European football
The Big Five European football leagues – the top divisions of England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France – saw revenue fall 11 per cent to €15.1bn (£13.2bn), Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finance found.
In the Premier League, aggregate revenue dropped by 13 per cent from a record £5.2bn in 2018-19 to £4.5bn in 2019-20 – a first ever year-on-year decrease.
It remained comfortably the biggest of the Big Five, generating 60 per cent more than its closest challenger, the Bundesliga, albeit down from 73 per cent.
The Bundesliga experienced the smallest fall in revenue of four per cent, to €3.2bn (£2.8bn), owing to the fact that it suffered less disruption than other top leagues.
This meant clubs were able to complete their season before financial year-end and paid only minimal rebates to broadcasters for changes to their schedules.
Spain’s LaLiga, previously second only to the Premier League, saw income decrease by eight per cent to €3.1bn (£2.7bn), although it is expected to overtake the German top flight in 2020-21.
Italy’s Serie A suffered an 18 per cent fall in revenue to €2.1bn (£1.8bn). Ligue 1 in France saw income drop 16 per cent to €1.6bn (£1.4bn).
Teams in the EFL – the three divisions below the Premier League – saw revenue fall 13 per cent to £943m.
Deloitte forecasts ‘strong recovery’ of football revenues in coming seasons
The £700m fall in Premier League revenues slashed operating profits from £782m to £55m and led to record pre-tax losses of £966m.
Leading English clubs’ net debt rose from £3.5bn to almost £4bn, although it is mostly interest-free and owed to major shareholders.
The delay to completion of the Premier League season pushed some revenues into the 2020-21 financial year, and Deloitte says it expects income to bounce back.
This coming season, 2021-22, which is due to begin in August, could even see new record Premier League revenues if fans are able to return in large numbers, it added.
“Despite the uncertainties of the past year, football – and the public interest in it – has shown great resilience,” said Jones, head of Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.
“We are hopeful that the 2021-22 season will be a step towards normality, resulting in a strong recovery in revenue terms across the coming seasons.”