European clubs chief warns of losses up to 8.5 billion euros due to pandemic

Paris (AFP) –


The head of the powerful European Club Association, Andrea Agnelli, has warned that top-level football clubs across the continent face more dire financial losses this year as they struggle to come to terms with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agnelli was speaking after the release of the Deloitte Football Money League report this week which showed combined revenue of the top 20 richest clubs in Europe in 2019/20 had dropped by 1.1 billion euros ($1.33 billion) compared to the previous season.

The report estimated those clubs will miss out on over two billion euros of revenue across the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons, but Agnelli sounded a stark warning for the game as a whole.

"I think it's going to be much worse than that. As the 19/20 season only has three or four months of crisis -- with no fans in stadiums, commercial rebates, broadcasting rebates -- while as it seems right now 20/21 will be a full season without fans in the stadiums," Agnelli, who is the chairman of Italian giants Juventus as well as of the ECA, said in a webinar hosted by the News Tank network on Wednesday.

"I think this season will be much worse.

"When I look at the best information we have had so far, we are looking at a bottom-line for the industry of in the region of 6.5 billion to 8.5 billion (euros) for the combined two years, and about 360 clubs will need cash injections, whether it's debt or equity, within those two years for an amount of six billion."

The ECA represents nearly 250 clubs across Europe, from the smallest leagues to those in the so-called 'Big Five' of England, Germany, Spain, Italy and France which contribute almost all of the 20 sides in the Deloitte Money League, the exception being Russia's Zenit Saint-Petersburg.

"The whole industry is going through a very complicated moment that will require some serious thinking in terms of how we want to address and tackle the future of our industry going forward," added Agnelli.

- Champions League reform or Super League? -

He has been a central figure in discussions about the reform of UEFA's flagship Champions League from 2024 onwards.

Talks have included the possibility of more matches and more guaranteed qualification for the very biggest clubs, with reports late last year suggesting the new format could involve a so-called "Swiss system", in which all sides compete in one league and play 10 different opponents.

The reforms would be to the benefit of the elite few, like Juventus, who have won the last nine Italian titles and were ranked 10th in the Deloitte Money League with revenue last season of almost 400 million euros.

However, Agnelli did not directly address reports of a new breakaway, closed European Super League, instead appearing to toe the line set by UEFA of ensuring all clubs should have some access to the biggest competitions.

"We must keep the dream alive, which is one of the mantras of our history. Everything should be based on sporting merit, but we should remember where our fans of the future are. It is our strong view that more European matches are welcome," he said.

"We have to tackle the issues of polarisation, of competitive balance and the lack of interest that is borne thereafter.

"I have read in various media that there are solutions that are being envisaged, like this so-called Swiss system...I think it's a great system.

"I will want any and all reforms to go through the general assembly of the ECA with all clubs voting for whatever our collective future will be."