England's Premier League headed European football earnings in 2009 but wages at 67% of revenues threaten profitability.
Gate receipts and TV revenues helped England's biggest clubs to generate €2.30bn last year, compared with €1.57bn by Germany's Bundesliga, Italy's Serie A at €1.49bn and Spain's La Liga €1.50bn, a report by business adviser Deloitte said.
However, Deloitte warned that much of the increase in revenues was taken by payments to players and agents in a business model where "clubs are continually driven to maximise wages rather than profitability." Wage inflation in the 2008-09 season was 11 per cent in the Premier League, with a £39m increase in club revenues, well below half of the £132m increase in total wage costs, which at £1.3bn accounted for 67% of revenues.
Operating profits in the Premier League more than halved in 2009 from £185m to £79m as the Bundesliga overtook the Premier League to be ranked the world's most profitable with profits of €172m (£142m). Other big European leagues remained in overall loss.
In total, the Top 92 English clubs’ saw revenues increase by £100m to over £2.5bn.
Dan Jones, Partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, commented:“Despite the sharp economic contraction, Premier League clubs were able to increase revenues by 3% in 2008/09. Whilst commercial income fell marginally (1%), both matchday and broadcasting revenues increased. For the 2009/10 season just ended, combined attendances for the Premier League and Football League exceeded 30m -- a level not seen since well before the introduction of all seated stadia. When you factor in the recently negotiated Premier League overseas broadcast deals, which come into effect from 2010/11, football has shown remarkable recession resistance during these difficult economic times.
“However, Premier League clubs’ operating profits more than halved from £185m in 2007/08 to £79m in 2008/09. The challenge for clubs continues to be converting their impressive year on year revenue growth into sustainable levels of profits that allow for continued investment in infrastructure and talent. This is particularly the case as credit is likely to remain less available to football clubs than it was two or three years ago.”
The £49m increase in Premier League clubs’ revenue was less than half the £132m increase in wage costs, driving total wages up to more than £1.3bn resulting in a record wages / revenue ratio of 67%. Gross transfer spending by Premier League clubs also increased from £664m in 2007/08 to a record £713m in 2008/09.
Alan Switzer, Director in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, commented: “The record wages to revenue ratio of 67% in the Premier League in 2008/09 is a concern, and we expect wages growth to outstrip revenue increases again in 2009/10. This will further reduce operating profitability, a decline that cannot continue indefinitely. However, clubs have the opportunity, via the revenue uplift from the new broadcast deals from 2010/11, to get wage levels down to a more sustainable share of revenue. It’s not the first such opportunity. It remains to be seen whether they grasp it.”
The Football League Championship clubs continued to grow their revenues, by 12% to £375m, in 2008/09. Paul Rawnsley, Director in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, noted: “The Football League’s achievement in growing revenues, with the value of new broadcast deals’ still to come when the clubs’ 2009/10 accounts are released, coupled with the Championship being the third best attended League in Europe, is remarkable. However, a wages / revenue ratio of 90% across the Championship is a cause for serious concern and will need to be addressed.”
Other key findings of the Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance 2010 include:
The total European football market grew to a record £13.4bn in 2008/09.
Premier League clubs generated the highest revenue (£2.0bn) of any league in Europe in 2008/09, followed by Germany, Spain and Italy (each £1.3bn), and France (£0.9bn).
The Premier League lost its status as the most profitable football league in the world for the second time in three years, again to the Bundesliga.
The top 92 English clubs invested £196m in facilities in 2008/09, the third highest annual figure since the formation of the Premier League and bringing the cumulative spending to over £2.7bn since 1992/93. Total attendances at Premier League and Football League matches exceeded 30m in 2009/10.
Net debt in respect of Premier League clubs increased to £3.3bn in 2008/09, up from £3.2bn the previous season.
The Government’s tax take from the top 92 professional football clubs rose to £957m and will exceed £1bn per year with the introduction of the 50% rate for earnings over £150,000.
Whilst debt in the Premier League has risen slightly to £3.3bn, around 40% of this (£1.4bn) is in the form of non-interest bearing ‘soft loans’. On the positive side of the balance sheet, Premier League clubs had £1.9bn carrying value of tangible fixed assets, reflecting the huge investment in facilities seen over the past two decades, and the carrying value of player registrations which exceeded £1bn for the first time.
Alex Byars, Senior Consultant in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, commented: “Given the ongoing increases in wages, transfer spending and debt levels, we welcome the recent steps taken by football authorities, both domestically and at a European level, to help clubs address the continuing cost control challenge. The UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, approved in May, will require clubs competing in UEFA competitions to aim to ‘break-even’, with potential sanctions from the 2013/14 season for non-compliance. The Premier League now requires all its member clubs to apply for a UEFA Club Licence, and has prevented clubs that exhibit financial warning signs from additional spending on players, to help limit future cost growth.
“Clubs have time to make any necessary adjustments to their business plans before the new UEFA Regulations are effective, and the benefit of the revenue uplift from the new Premier League broadcast deals from 2010/11 to help them balance the books.”