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
|West Ham United||£191m||81%||£36.29m|
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