Premier League clubs reported a cumulative pre-tax loss of almost £1 billion ($1.4 billion) for the coronavirus-hit 2019-20 season, according to figures from finance company Deloitte.
Fans were locked out of English top-flight stadiums in the latter stages of the 2019-20 campaign because of the pandemic and only returned on a limited basis towards the end of the 2020-21 season.
The lack of spectators combined with a rebate paid to television broadcasters cut revenue by about 13 per cent.
A cumulative pre-tax loss of almost £1 billion was also the largest in Premier League history and almost five times the previous season’s £200 million figure.
Although the losses were significant, the 20 Premier League clubs still made a combined £4.5 billion.
“The decrease in revenue in the 2019-20 season is, unsurprisingly, down to the global economic and social disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and will continue to have a heavy impact on the 2020-21 season’s financial results when available,” Dan Jones of Deloitte’s sports business group said.
“The absence of fans, postponement of matches and rebates to broadcasters had a significant impact on the revenue clubs have been able to generate.
“The full financial impact of the pandemic on the Premier League will depend on the timing of the return of fans to stadia in significant numbers and the ability of clubs to maintain and develop their commercial relationships, in particular at a time when many other industries are suffering.
“Matchday operations are a cornerstone of a club’s business model and fans’ absence will be more fully reflected in the financial results of the 2020-21 financial year.
“Once fans are able to return in full, hopefully during the 2021/22 season, Premier League clubs have the potential to again return to record revenue levels.”
The renewal of the league’s broadcasting deals will contribute to that, but, in the meantime, the proportion of club revenue that went to paying player wages jumped to 72 per cent in 2019-20.
“With wages always representing the largest cost for football clubs we will watch with interest in years to come to understand whether this financial shock will come to be seen as having caused a change in approach and greater control over wage expenditure,” Deloitte’s Tim Bridge said.