UEFA has issued its sixth club licensing benchmarking report on European club football. The report is an authoritative review of the financial performances and positions of 700 clubs, and comes as financial fair play measures introduced by UEFA to stabilise clubs' financial management begin to take full effect.
The report supplements the 'Licensed to Thrill' report issued last autumn, and provides 100 pages of unique analysis on European club football. It is now available in English, and will also soon be available in three other languages – French, German and Russian.
For the first time, the report includes analyses of cash flow. The report also presents, among other things: a three-year review of 1,700 head coach changes; analysis of domestic competition structures; a five-year transfer activity review; analysis on agent commissions and player contracts; the five-year evolution of wages and club revenues for over 50 countries; and attendance trends and market research on supporter levels across Europe.
"This report is unique," says UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino in his foreword, "as it highlights both the tremendous popularity of European club football and the challenges and pressures that this brings.
"With 77% of European adults interested in football and attendances of more than 163 million at domestic league matches last season, the report fully emphasises how much football means to so many people, and the tremendous responsibility that falls upon the football governing bodies and stakeholders alike to make sure that the game remains healthy."
The report gives positive signs that financial fair play is having an impact on the European club football landscape. The figures analysed from almost 700 clubs show more owners fully committing their money to clubs, rather than lending it, and almost €600m lower losses than in each of the two previous years. "While such figures are encouraging," says Gianni Infantino, "there is still considerable work to be done in reducing these losses further."
Key figures included in the report show that European club revenues grew by 42% between 2007 and 2012, but were still outstripped by European club wages, which increased by 59% in the same five-year period. However, in the most recent year, wage bill growth was restricted to the same 7% level as revenue growth for the first time in recent years. In addition, the report illustrates the difference in spending power at the very top of the game, with the largest club wage bill just over three times higher than the 25th largest club wage bill.
Turning to transfer fees, the total transfer fees spent in recent years in assembling European top-division playing squads reached €10.9bn, while the average agent commission as a percentage of transfer fees paid by clubs playing in UEFA competitions is 12.6%. The report also highlights the precarious nature of coaches' jobs at European clubs, who changed their head coach an average 2.7 times during the three-year period between 2011 and 2013. While clubs in some northern European countries changed less than once on average during this period, in some parts of the Balkans and Greece, clubs on average changed their coach more than five times in the three years.
During the latest completed licensing cycle, seven clubs who had qualified for the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League on the field of play were refused entry on licensing or financial fair play grounds. In total, 44 clubs have been refused admission on such grounds over a period of ten years.
The cumulative improvement of €600m in European club balance sheets gives rise to optimism for the future. Nevertheless, Gianni Infantino insists that the hard work to safeguard European club football's future must not abate. "Everyone involved in football wants to win," he says, "but when we look at the last three years of club football and see almost 2,000 head coach changes and combined club losses of more than €4bn, it is clear that the football family needs more stability, less short-term thinking and better financial sustainability.
"In this respect, UEFA is providing leadership to protect European football from greed, reckless spending and outright financial insanity. It is only through good governance that we will be in a position to protect European football for the long term by ensuring that clubs live within their own revenue in a sustainable manner.
"That is why this year is a very important one for the long-term future of club football," the UEFA General Secretary concludes, "as the final parts of the financial fair play initiative enter into force. This project is a major challenge for both the clubs and UEFA, and it will certainly not solve all of football's problems off the field. Nevertheless, it is a necessary and important step in the right direction, towards having a more stable base from which football can grow stronger in the coming years."
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