From March to May you could still hear the football leaders pitiful. “If we can’t start playing again soon, some clubs will face bankruptcy,” said Borussia Dortmund’s managing director Hans-Joachim Watzke. The complaint was heard and permission granted. In ghost game mode, the clubs continue to make losses. Bundesliga club Dortmund put the corona-related defaults in the latest half-year balance sheet at 45 million euros. In a study at the beginning of July, the association of the European professional clubs ECA estimated the loss of revenue in the ten most important European leagues at 1.6 billion euros and in the coming season at 2.4 billion euros.
However, revenues from transfers were not included in the forecast. For good reason. Because the player carousel is turning again. Millions of euros in the amount of Dortmund’s total losses were moved back and forth in the first transfer phase. Bayern Munich secured Leroy Sané for 49 million euros. Chelsea FC put 53 million euros for Leipzig’s Timo Werner and 40 million for Ajax player Hakim Ziyech. FC Barcelona got Miralem Pjanic from Juventus for 60 million euros and in return gave the Brazilian Arthur to the Italian series champion for 72 million.
Ordinary accountants would have simply offset the income and expenses when exchanging players between Barcelona and Turin – the Catalans would then have a net profit of 12 million euros and Juve a loss of the same amount. However, both clubs still credit the transfer income for the current balance sheet, as of June 30. The expenses, however, are spread over several seasons – at Juventus even over four annual accounts, as the club itself announced.
The procedure has a method: the credit side is pumped up with fresh transfers. The costs are postponed to the following years – and hope that then expensive sales will succeed and that the income from television rights and ticket sales will continue to increase until then. For this purpose, the values for players are often pushed up between clubs. Pjanic was sold by Juve despite the corona crisis for eight million euros above the estimated market value, Arthur was even bought for 16 million euros from Barcelona. According to Vice President Jordi Cardoner, Barca has suffered losses of around EUR 140 million through Corona. The Catalans needed around 70 million in order not to end the financial year with a minus and not to fear Uefa sanctions for non-compliance with financial fair play. Juventus is still in the middle of a debt reduction after Cristiano Ronaldo’s commitment for more than 100 million euros in 2018. The deal with the inflated sums and the deferred expenses helped both clubs.
Juventus Turin has experience with such businesses. U23 player Simone Muratore, market value 125,000 euros, was sold to Atalanta Bergamo shortly before the balance sheet closing on June 29 for seven million euros. Last year, substitute Stefano Sturaro was transferred to Genoa for 18 million euros – the CFC even bought the midfielder despite being injured. The sale of midfield talent Rolando Mandragora to Udinese was also inflated. After only one season in Serie A, the then 21-year-old was sold to Udinese Calcio at the Crotone lending club for 20 million euros. However, Juventus secured a buy-back right of 26 million euros. Should Mandragora meet the high expectations, Udinese makes a guaranteed plus – and for Juventus the 26 million could even be a bargain price in the event of enforcement. Clubs such as Genoa, Udinese or Atalanta keep meeting Juventus leaders because they can hope for preferential treatment for the next deals.
As in ordinary capitalism, this model only works in football with permanent growth. The ECA now sees limits. Because of lower revenues from ticketing or television contracts, she fears that the share of expenditure for player salaries in the European top leagues will increase from an average of around 60 to 70 percent. However, Hugo Hamon, CFO of ECA, did not see any reduction options in salaries. “Player salaries are an easy target in opinion forming, but a complex financial problem if you want to tackle it,” he said in the study. Despite Corona, nothing will change in the top salaries.
A bad signal is also that the International Sports Court considered the financial transactions objected to by Uefa, with which Manchester City operated its inflated shopping business, to be largely statute-barred. The fine has now been reduced from 30 to 10 million euros and the ban on the Champions League has been lifted. Even in empty stadiums, the spirits of greed continue to have their regular place.