Football clubs income hit by UEFA rebate to broadcasters

GENEVA (AP) — Amid a cash crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, European football clubs were told yesterday that UEFA is repaying EUR575 million to broadcasters because of the disruption to the Champions League and Europa League.

UEFA sales of broadcasting and sponsorship rights for its club competitions were set to earn EUR3.25 billion annually through the 2020-21 season.

“That is all money that is not going to be distributed,” European Club Association (ECA) Chairman Andrea Agnelli said about the rebate in a speech to about 250 member clubs in an online assembly.

Until the pandemic forced UEFA competitions to be restructured and fewer games played in the knockout rounds, participating clubs were due to share EUR2.55 billion in prize money from UEFA.

“We are in the process of finalising the accounts with UEFA with a reduction of around EUR575 million for the international club competitions,” Agnelli said, referring to rebates for broadcasters.

It was unclear if all the returned money will come from clubs’ share of revenues, or if UEFA would also lose expected income.

Bayern Munich’s goalkeeper Manuel Neuer lifts the trophy after Munich won the Champions League final football match at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon, Portugal on August 23. Amid a cash crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, European football clubs were told yesterday that UEFA is repaying EUR575 million to broadcasters because of the disruption to the Champions League and Europa League. PHOTO: AP

President Agnelli of Italian champion Juventus said clubs were still in crisis management mode and the full picture would not be known until annual accounts begin to be published within weeks. He predicted some individual clubs would suffer bigger losses than an entire football confederation, such as European body UEFA.

The ECA previously predicted in July that European clubs would see revenue drop by EUR4 billion over last season and this season in fallout from the pandemic.

Agnelli also cited falling domestic revenues, including a GBP330 million rebate to broadcasters by the Premier League and a EUR200 million downturn for domestic rights in Germany.

“This new season is going to be very, very challenging both on and off the pitch,” Agnelli said, adding playing without fans in almost empty stadiums was a problem that united all football clubs.

“It is not just the atmosphere that the sport generates, it’s also the complete wipeout of a very important source of revenue for everybody,” he said.

Agnelli also predicted a drop in the price when commercial deals such as shirt sponsorship are renewed.

“We are not in the position to deliver some of the rights we promised,” he said. “I am quite sure we are going to see a rebate on this.”

The knock-on effect was a likely shrinking of the transfer market value by 20-30 per cent. Agnelli spoke to the biannual ECA assembly weeks before the group is due to resume UEFA-led talks on reforming the Champions League and other club competitions from 2024.

Elite clubs like Juventus were previously blocked in their push for more revenue-generating games in the Champions League and a format that would make it harder for teams from mid-ranking nations to qualify.