European football bounce back from the brink


European football market bounces back after pandemic Image: FC Barcelona

The 31st edition of Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finance – the leading independent review of the business and finances of European professional football – chronicles the 2020-2021 seasons, a season impacted by COVID-19 restrictions which caused significant disruption.

‘Deloitte’ stated that with matches played behind closed doors and stadia empty for the majority of the season, European clubs were faced with unprecedented challenges.

The Annual Review of Football Finance 2022 analyzes the legacy of the disruption and charts the ‘new dawn’ ushered in by the actions taken to mitigate it, while providing an outlook on the industry’s efforts to build financial sustainability across European football for the long term.

A New Dawn

Despite an almost complete loss of matchday revenue in the 2020-2021 seasons, the European football market grew defiantly in revenue terms by 10 percent to €27.6 billion, boosted by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) EURO 2020 tournament and deferred revenue from the postponed 2019-2020 seasons.

‘Deloitte’ further stated that this indicates a significant recovery in revenue terms, with the bounce back to pre-COVID revenue levels projected to be achieved in the 2021-2022 seasons.

The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) is one of six continental bodies of governance in association football. It governs football, futsal and beach soccer in Europe as well as Israel in Asia and the Eurasian transcontinental countries of Russia, Turkey, Cyprus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Kazakhstan. The UEFA consists of 55 national association members. Because of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, FIFA and UEFA suspended all Russian national representative teams and club teams from any FIFA and UEFA competitions.

The 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, commonly referred to as UEFA EURO 2020 or simply EURO 2020, was the 16th UEFA European Championship, the quadrennial international men’s football championship of Europe organized by the Union of European Football Associations.

In the aftermath of a record-breaking UEFA Women’s EURO and in anticipation of a landmark football season that will include the first ever winter FIFA World Cup™ (read Qatar 2022) and a break across all of the ‘Big Five’ leagues, Deloitte’s 31st Annual Review of Football Finance assesses the financial performance of European clubs within the tumultuous 2020-2021 seasons and charts the outlook for future growth.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, commonly referred to as Deloitte, is an international professional services network headquartered in London, United Kingdom.

30 Years of the Premier League

As the Premier League (UK) celebrates 30 years since the start of its first ever season (1992-1993), Deloitte has charted its success throughout, tracking remarkable growth in the financial scale and global appeal of the competition.

The Premier League is the top level of the men’s English football league system. Contested by 20 clubs, it operates on a system of promotion and relegation with the English Football League (EFL). Seasons typically run from August to May with each team playing 38 matches.

In 2020-2021, the average revenue per Premier League club exceeded the collective 1992-1993 total for the fourth time, with the total revenue up over 2,400 percent at £4.9 billion.

Entering its fourth decade, there is an optimistic outlook as the Premier League clubs’ revenue is expected to exceed £6 billion in the 2022-2023 seasons as a result of the new broadcast deals, the return to full stadia and improved commercial deals.

Europe’s Premier Leagues

In 2020-2021, the ‘Big Five’ European leagues generated €15.6 billion in aggregate revenue, up three percent relative to the prior season, but significantly below revenues observed prior to COVID-19 (€17.0 billion in 2018-2019).

The theme of polarization has been ever present in European football and has been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19. The Premier League today may be further ahead of the competition than ever before. Concerningly, when excluding the Premier League, the ‘Big Five’ reported increased total operating losses during the year, increasing from €461m to €901m.

Now more than ever clubs need informed financial decisions to be taken to ensure the recovery from COVID-19 is as effective as possible.

A Whole New Level for the Women’s Game



  • Most watched TV program in the United Kingdom so far in 2022: UEFA Women’s EURO Final.



  • New UEFA EURO (men’s and women’s) attendance record: UEFA Women’s EURO Final (Wembley).



  • Women’s Super League (WSL) and Division 1 Féminine teams featured in a FIFA game for the first time (FIFA 23).


Women Power

  • The US women’s team won the right to pay parity with the men’s team.



  • Increase in viewership for the English WSL in its first year of Sky-BBC rights deal.

The UEFA Women’s EURO 2022 Final was a football match held on July 31st, 2022 that took place at the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium in London, England (UK), to determine the winner of UEFA Women’s EURO 2022. The match was contested between hosts England and Germany which the England women’s national football team won.

The Women’s Super League (WSL), currently known as the Barclays Women’s Super League for sponsorship reasons, is the highest league of women’s football in England. Established in 2010, it is run by the Football Association and features 12 fully professional teams.

The Division 1 Féminine, shortened as D1 Féminine or D1F, and currently known as D1 Arkema for sponsorship reasons, is the highest division of women’s football in France. Run by the French Football Federation, the league is contested by 12 fully professional clubs.

As the women’s game enters a rapid growth era, it is being witnessed that women’s football clubs and leagues are breaking the mould, forging a system of unique identities, fan bases and business models, unconstrained by the legacy structures of the men’s game.

The game’s stakeholders are poised to benefit from a windfall that will facilitate further investment in professionalization and commercialization, which has the potential to improve profitability.

The women’s game now stands on its own as a proudly differentiated product, and one will increasingly see the global football industry looking to learn from its achievements.

Premier League Clubs

Premier League clubs’ revenues increased by eight percent to c.£4.9 billion in 2020-2021 following the previous season’s drop, which was the first year-on-year fall in the total revenue in the Premier League’s history.

This increase is largely due to a c.£1 billion

(43 percent) increase in broadcast revenue, owing to rebates and deferrals in the previous (2019-2020) seasons. The impact of this on the overall revenue, however, was diminished by the absence of fans for the majority of the season, which resulted in a loss of over £0.5 billion in matchday revenues.

With the return of full stadia, along with new broadcast deals and improved commercial deals, the outlook for future Premier League clubs’ revenues is optimistic, with the overall revenue projected to surpass £6 billion in the 2022-2023 seasons.

Responsible Investment in Sport

This resilience and the greater need for, and reception to, private investment, alongside a renewed focus on financial sustainability, has led to significant investment into football at both the league and club levels.

In 2021, the number of transactions was more than the prior two years combined. The year 2022 has seen a continuation of this uplift of activity, with investments in eight ‘Big Five’ clubs taking place so far.

The influx of investment and changes of ownership in sport has received a mixed response from fans and other stakeholders. Concerns can relate to reputational issues, expectations of future sporting performance and risks surrounding a club’s financial sustainability.

Responsible and sustainable investment into football clubs – defined by an ownership strategy that protects long-term financial and operational viability, whilst also balancing the desire to be competitive on-pitch – is of paramount importance.

Football League Clubs

All three of the English Football League’s (EFL’s) divisions saw aggregate club revenues fall in 2020-2021. League One clubs were worst affected with aggregate revenues down 22 percent, compared to a reduction of 12 percent and four percent in the Championship and League Two, respectively.

This decline meant average wages surpassed average revenue among League One clubs for the first time, while this was the case for the fourth consecutive year in the Championship.

With over 90 percent of Championship clubs operating at a loss in 2020-2021, it’s clear that many will need to improve the future balance between their costs and their revenues, encouraged by the EFL’s regulations and clubs’ obligations under the loan schemes initiated in 2020. There now can be no doubt that significant change is required to drive long-term sustainability, without the need for continual owner funding at this level.

The English Football League is a league of professional football clubs from England and Wales. Founded in 1888 as the Football League, the league is the oldest such competition in the world.

Independent Fan-Led Review of Football Governance

In November 2021, Tracey Crouch, MP, UK, delivered her report as Chair of the Independent Fan-Led Review of Football Governance (the Review).

The Review produced 10 core, and 47 more detailed, recommendations. At the heart of these was the recommendation for an independent regulator to set rules to govern the business of English football with appropriate licensing, investigatory and enforcement powers.

Continued political will to appoint and empower the regulator and hard work in collaboration with English football’s key stakeholders on the details of regulation will enable the game to address its biggest challenges, build upon its undoubted success and safeguard the future of the game.

‘Big Five’ Facts

The ‘Big Five’ comprises the Premier League in England, the Bundesliga in Germany, LaLiga in Spain, Serie A in Italy, and Ligue 1 in France.

  • € 119m – Average ‘Big Five’ club wages; and
  • € 0.9bn – Total ‘Big Five’ operating losses.


Premier League Clubs’ Data

  • £ 418m – Revenues from UEFA for seven clubs in UEFA competitions in 2020-2021;
  • £ 1.7bn – Premier League clubs’ aggregate losses over the disrupted 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons;
  • £236m – Premier League clubs’ investment in stadia and training ground facilities in 2020-2021; and
  • £4.1bn – Premier League clubs’ net debt at the end of the 2020-2021 seasons.


Football League Clubs’ Data

  • £236m – Total of parachute payments to seven Championship clubs in 2020-2021; and
  • £91m – Championship clubs’ capital expenditure in 2020-2021, including £55m for Brentford F.C.’s new stadium.

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