When even FC Barcelona are in financial difficulty, you know there are problems for football

by Tony Attwood

According to reports in the European media FC Barcelona were already in a certain amount of financial difficulty before the Corona crisis.  Now they really do have a problem.

All of which may seem rather hard to imagine especially since it was only on 19 September 2019 that  Óscar Grau, executive director of the Spanish champions, announced with a certain level of pride, financial details for the club that were, he proclaimed, a world record “for a sports club”.

And the reason for the bravado and the pumped up chests was that the club’s budget for the season would be over one billion euros.  Or in case you want the exact number, 1047 million euros.

That was just 190 days ago.  Half a season, give or take.

But now things have changed.  And changed quite a lot.  For now there is a certain gnashing of teeth going on.  Because even Barcelona has been badly hit by the corona crisis.  And that is the point.  If FC Barcelona is having a certain amount of difficulty, can you imagine how things are going for everyone else?

In Spain, this crisis is so dramatic that the national football federation RFEF and the league association LFP have at last agreed on one thing: they are regulating the language.

So instead of talking about a fixed date when the ball everyone rejoices and football starts to rock n roll again (as it were), it is admitted that everything is in the hands of the government and actually no one has a clue how long this will last.

On monday, the Primera División made it clear that the re-start date was no longer in its hands.  It is up to the government.

Then on Wednesday the realisation sank in that the number of corona deaths in Spain was now greater than the total death toll from the virus in China.  Symbolically, in Madrid the ice rink has been turned into a morgue.

And now it has been admitted that Barcelona’s sources of money have just about run dry.  So the Presidium of FC Barcelona met club members on Friday and tried to reassure them. The club has been looking at “various scenarios and possible measures” all with the aim of “minimizing all economic effects.”

The problem is that unlike most clubs in Spain, FC Barcelona is not a limited company, but along with  Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao it has remained a club owned by its members.   Barcelona does not have a wealthy owner in the way that Paris St. Germain and Manchester City have.  An owner with the resources of an entire state behind him.  An owner who can inject money at the drop of an oil barrel.

Barcelona relies on fans buying tickets, Champions League funding and TV money, and they have all stopped.  Even the club museum, one of the most visited sites in the city, is not helping.  Last year it gave the club 60 million euros.  The fan shops brought in another 86 million.  Now it is nothing.

But the costs are still there.  The newspaper Sport reported on Wednesday who will be sold.  Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal, Samuel Umtiti, Coutinho… and not because they don’t want them, but because they can’t afford them.  Because players were 70% of their spend last year.  Now they have cut that to 61% but that’s nowhere near enough to keep the wolf from the door.

And we can see why when we remember that in order to buy Antoine Griezmann for 120 million euros from Atlético Madrid, the club had to take out a loan.

But what does this have to do with the Premier League?  Surely those clubs are ok…

Yes Manchester City are, because their owner will do anything within or without the rules.  But the rest all depend on the money from games.   Which means that when we hear that Arsenal is projected to spend £100m on transfers some salt might be needed.  Perhaps more to the point is the report that Football Broadcasters want their cash back but the clubs don’t have it is not so fanciful as it might have seemed.

Of course Arsenal have the very wealthy Mr K running the show.  But is he going to pump £m into the club?  That certainly would not have been his idea when he bought the club.  And I suspect it isn’t his idea now.

Here’s the chart I’ve run before… it seems more relevant than ever, now.

Club Total revenue Matchday plus TV % of total income
What’s left
Manchester United £627m 55% £282.15m
Manchester City £538m 57% £231.34m
Liverpool £533m 65% £186.55m
Tottenham Hotspur £459m 71% £133.11m
Chelsea £452m 59% £185.32m
Arsenal £393m 72% £110.04m
West Ham United £191m 81% £36.29m
Everton £188m 78% £41.36m
Wolverhampton Wand £172m 84% £27.52m




4 Replies to “When even FC Barcelona are in financial difficulty, you know there are problems for football”

  1. OT: VAR

    SportingLife (Dave Pilgrim) has an article out about VAR.


    Supposedly Dave Pilgrim is “properly” using statistics, but the article says nothing about how Dave Pilgrim acquired his knowledge of statistics. The article itself, describes Dave Pilgrim as “columnist”. Hmmm, how many columnists have a proper background in statistics?

    He shows a problem with pursuing his intended line of thought, and his reasoning behind an alternative. He then goes through the EPL, Spain, other places. And he basiclaly just waves his hand and says the differences are insignificant without offering any proof?

    Is he using tables from statistics textbooks, which assume error is Gaussian distributed? Is he using bootstrap, jacknife or other mechanisms which use the distribution present in the data; not some assumption of Gaussian (or other)?

    We just have to take the word of someone at SportingLife, that all this has been done “properly”.

    There is no evidence that Dave Pilgrim investigated subpopulations. Do the Top-N of the leagues in question, receive red cards or penalties at the same rate as the “rest of the league”?

  2. Just to point out: Arsenal, like Manchester City and PSG, have wealthy owners. Alas, they’re business models are chalk and cheese: hence the bitterness emanating from this still esteemed blog.

  3. True Kenward, but the wealth of Kroenke, vast though it is, is but a drop of water in the desert compared to the wealth of the Manchester City owners.

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