KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The Covid-19 pandemic has blasted a €575m hole in the past season’s European club competition finances. Inevitably this will trim both the payout to clubs and the budget of UEFA.

On the side, the new financial stresses within the club elite will probably strengthen the European governing body’s hand in the drawn-out negotiations with clubs and broadcasters about the future shape of the Champions League. Talks are currently frozen.

The cash realities were set out by Andrea Agnelli, the chairman of the European Club Association, at its online general assembly.

The (European) cup that cheers -- but not so much now

Agnelli, who is also the president of perennial Italian champions Juventus, explained that the reorganisation of the closing stages of the European club season, with a reduction in matches, had led to a need to pay money back to television rights holders.

To put the sum into context, UEFA’s broadcasting and sponsorship forecast for the new season was around €3.25bn.

Agnelli said: “We have seen very important rebates to the principal broadcasters both at domestic level and at international level.

€4bn slippage

“We have seen a £330m rebate in the English Premier League, we have seen a downturn in the Bundesliga domestic rights of about €200m and are finalising the account with UEFA with a reduction of around €575m for the international club competitions.

“That is all money that is not going to be distributed. We European clubs are looking at a revenue decrease of approximately €4bn in the next two years.”

The absence of fans from stadia was a financial blow in itself apart from helping prompt a drop in sponsorship revenues. Agnelli forecast a 2pr or 30pc slippage in the overall value of the transfer market.

As for the reshaping of the Champions League for the 2024-27 phase, Agnelli said: “When we met in Geneva last year it was meant to be the first step of a long consultation process to define what we wanted football to look like from 2024 and what kind of competitions we wanted.

“In my opinion, many of the aspects on the table in September 2019 are still valid but we are still in the middle of crisis management. We need to stall before we can properly address the future. We need an understanding of the pandemic’s significance at economic level for clubs.”

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin echoed Agnelli’s words and sentiments.

Ceferin said:  “Who could imagine at the beginning of 2020 what we would have seen? Six months ago everything was shutting down, and now my friends we are back. We cannot say everything is normal, but it will be normal soon.

“Our mutual trust and sound partnership will bring us soon to identify formulas to consolidate the incredible success story of the UEFA club competitions. If we are united, football will win.”

ECA statement:

ECA Members reflect on COVID-19 impacts and football’s sustainable future
  • ECA Chairman Andrea Agnelli outlines scale of challenge club football is faced with, reiterating ECA’s commitment to playing a leading role in efforts to mitigate impact of COVID-19 on the game and shaping football’s sustainable future
  • UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin and FIFA Vice-President Victor Montagliani offer reassurance and support to ECA Members
  • Stephan Reiter (FC Salzburg) and Sharon Tammam (Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC) elected to ECA Executive Board as Subdivision 2 representative and Subdivision 3 full board member respectively
The 24th ECA General Assembly, the first of its kind to be held virtually, took place on 8 September, bringing together 178 ECA Member Clubs.

Following the forced cancellation of the March General Assembly, this was the first full gathering of ECA Members in 2020. The meeting provided the opportunity to cover a number of important topics of relevance to the professional game at a time when football is facing its biggest ever challenge with many clubs having to contend with uncertain futures.

Address by the ECA Chairman

In his address to ECA Member Clubs, ECA Chairman Andrea Agnelli laid out the hardships the game was facing, the complexities in managing the industry through a pandemic and the need for clubs to work together.

Agnelli said: “What this pandemic and this crisis shows us and brings to us is one of the elements that I have stressed ever since the very first day of my chairmanship of the ECA – that the entrepreneurial risk of the industry lies on the clubs’ shoulders… If one thing connects all of us, irrespective of whether we come from a top club, a medium club or a small club, it’s that we have stadiums and we have receipts from the stadium. That has been pretty much wiped out.

It’s the vast majority of us that will bear deep scars from this crisis [and] my hope is that we come together collectively, as responsible individuals, each one of us as clubs, so we can bring forward our positions, with our stakeholders, with one united voice.”

UEFA and FIFA offer words of reassurance and support

UEFA President Aleksander Čeferin and FIFA Vice-President Victor Montagliani spoke directly to ECA Members, both offering messages of reassurance and commitment in providing the necessary support to assist club football to overcome the challenges it faces and the need for all stakeholders to continue their efforts in working collaboratively in coming up with the right solutions in supporting the game as a whole.

ECA CEO report

In his first address as CEO, Charlie Marshall provided ECA Members with a detailed assessment of the key decisions that have been taken over recent months, along with UEFA, FIFA, FIFPro and the European Leagues, aimed at supporting the game and managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marshall said: “COVID-19 has been a harsh wake-up call for Football, but a wake-up call nonetheless… Whilst we have been in crisis management mode for much of 2020, we are confident that, in learning to live with the risks, we will also learn lessons in how to come through this with a more sustainable future for football.

One could ask for no clearer evidence than COVID-19 that clubs will always bear the lion’s share of the risks and the costs of delivering the world’s beautiful game, and that clubs must never tire of their work in evolving the relationships, structures, ways of working and ultimately governance to place them at the heart of football.”

Stephan Reiter (FC Salzburg) and Sharon Tammam (Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC) elected to the Executive Board

Following the recent departures of Raphael Landthaler (SK Rapid Wien) and Stefan Pantovic (FK Crvena Zvezda), Ordinary and Associated Members from Subdivision 2 elected Stephan Reiter (FC Salzburg) as their Subdivision’s Representative (Observer status) on the Board, whilst Ordinary Members from Subdivision 3 elected Sharon Tammam (Maccabi Tel-Aviv FC) as a full Board member. Both will see out the remainder of the Board’s term (September 2023).