European clubs face losses of up to $10.3 billion as COVID-19 ravages football

In a dramatic Coppa Italia derby at an empty San Siro where each and every grunt and growl of the players echoed eerily on the pitch, Inter Milan came from behind to edge out arch-rivals AC Milan to reach the semi-final. It was a crucial victory for Antonio Conte’s side who set their sights on the vital trophy.

Off the pitch, however, it’s not all rosy. Inter have owed the players their salaries for a few months as the Italian giants are still struggling to come to terms with the financial disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Time is not on their side. The Italian Football Federation has fixed a deadline of February 16 for all top division clubs to solve issues about wage deferrals, otherwise they risk suffering points deductions.

Inter are not alone. The economic consequences of the pandemic were laid bare to all clubs, whose huge reductions in ticket revenues and sponsorship deals during the coronavirus outbreak proved particularly fatal.

The dire situation was also highlighted in a recent Deloitte report, which claimed that Europe’s elite football clubs are expected to miss out on over 2 billion euros ($2.43 billion) in revenue by the end of the 2020-21 season.

Andrea Agnelli, the Juventus chairman who leads the European Club Association, also cast an air of pessimism over the football’s financial prospects amid COVID-19.

“When I look at the best information I’ve had so far, we’re looking at a bottom-line loss for the industry in the region of 6.5 billion euros ($7.9 billion) to 8.5 billion euros ($10.3 billion) for the combined two years,” he warned in a webinar hosted by the News Tank network on Wednesday.

He also pointed out that with the majority of games being played without spectators since June, match-day revenue for top sides is likely to remain close to zero until the end of the 2020-21 season.

“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,” he said.

“About 360 clubs will need cash injections, whether it’s debt or equity within those two years, for an amount of 6 billion euros ($7.2 billion),” he added. “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.”

While the pandemic has shown no signs of abating in Europe, European football’s governing body UEFA insisted on Wednesday that they still intend to stage the delayed Euro 2020, which will be held from June 11 to July 11, in 12 cities all across the continent.

“UEFA is committed to holding Euro 2020 in the 12 cities originally planned. The Euro is the flagship competition for national team football in Europe and is a vital source of funding for grassroots and wider football development,” UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said in a statement.

“I am optimistic that things are highly likely to be very different with regard to the virus as we move closer to the tournament and it is important that we give the host cities and governments as much time as we can to formulate an accurate picture of what will be possible come June and July,” he added.

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