U.K. Soccer Clubs Face £1 Billion Hit From Virus Shutdown

(Bloomberg) -- Britain’s top soccer league will take an estimated 1 billion pound ($1.3 billion) hit from the coronavirus crisis, with empty stadiums and lingering safety fears awaiting its clubs as they prepare to restart the season.

The Premier League has been suspended since mid-March and three months of no live soccer is expected to weigh heavily on its revenues for the 2019/2020 financial year, according to an annual review of the game by Deloitte Sports Business Group, published on Thursday.

Around 500 million pounds of the lost revenue will be the result of rebates to broadcasters, a reduction in ticket sales due to games being played behind closed doors and reduced commercial contracts, according to Deloitte. Another 500 million pounds will be deferred to the following financial year.

The league is scheduled to restart on June 17 with games to be broadcast live in the U.K. by Sky Sports, BT Sport, BBC Sport and Amazon Prime. Fans of its 20 clubs won’t be permitted to attend games because of health and safety concerns, as has been the case in Germany.

“The success of each league’s return, and the strength of each one’s relationships with broadcasters and commercial partners, will have a potentially significant and lasting impact on the financial strength of clubs and leagues,” said Dan Jones, partner and head of the Sports Business Group at Deloitte.

With revenue of 5.2 billion pounds in 2018/2019, the Premier League is Europe’s richest soccer competition by far and it continues to attract interest from overseas buyers. The league is in the process of deciding whether to approve a 300 million pound takeover of Newcastle United Football Club, one of the country’s best-supported teams, by a consortium being led by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

Despite a projected rapid recovery in finances, the Covid-19 pandemic could force U.K. clubs to reassess cost controls and focus on long-term stability, according to Jones.

“The decisions taken now will determine if the 2019/20 season is seen in future as the end of a golden age or the start of a better, stronger new era,” he said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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