BarcelonaAston Villa was in the second English division in 2019. It has been fifteen years since they took part in the group stage of a European competition. In the last three decades, he has lifted only one title, an Intertoto. Villa Park attracts, on average, just over 42,000 spectators. And, despite everything, this will be one of the many English clubs that, if they need to, could end up investing significantly more money than Barça in new signings this summer. The reason? There are several: from television to fair play financial, passing through the economic muscle of the Premier club owners.
The financial possibilities of those from Birmingham are an incentive capable of seducing two of the most prominent executives in Spanish and European football: Mateu Alemany, who came to announce his departure from Barça and ended up backing down; and Monchi, who put an end to his second stage as Seville’s architect. Since returning to the Premier League in the 2019-20 season, the villans they have been able to invest more than 100 million euros in each of the last four summers. This year they are following the same path: they have already spent 33 to hire two players that Barça had on their radar: Pau Torres (Villa-real) and Youri Tielemans (Leicester City). Last season, apart from convincing Coutinho, he also took away two old claims from the Blaugrana: Diego Carlos (Sevilla) and Álex Moreno (Betis).
But how has this mid-table club been able to spend 520 million on signings since 2019 (Barça has invested 637 since then)? The generous distribution of audiovisual rights revenue is one of the keys: Aston Villa took in £119.6m (€139.6m) in the 2021-22 season despite finishing 14th. Espanyol, fourteenth in the League that same season, received 54.5, almost a third. Barça, second, received 160. The 2022-23 distribution will include overtaking: the Barcelona team will no longer receive 25% of the audiovisual rights after ceding them, for the next 25 years, to Sixth Street, which advanced them more than 200 million. In the Premier League, at the moment, no club has ceded a percentage of the television rights. This implies that Barça will receive around 40 million less per year, if the figure for the 2021-22 academic year is repeated. Aston Villa, meanwhile, will receive an added bonus for improving their position and qualifying for the Conference League, which will generate additional income.
The criteria for the distribution of audiovisual rights have been homogenized in the five major European leagues in recent years. Almost all the championships equally distribute 50% of the money they allocate to their respective first divisions between all the clubs. Only Ligue 1 introduces a nuance. It allocates 30%, but adds another 20% which it distributes according to the license the club has: those who remain in the category receive the full amount, while those who are promoted and relegated receive a discount.
And how does each championship share the remaining 50%? The League and the Premier allocate 25% to the position that each team achieves in the classification, weighting in a scaled way the last five seasons. In Serie A and Ligue 1, on the other hand, they give more weight to sporting merits, 30%. The championship that rewards the final classification of each club the most is the Bundesliga, where up to 43% of the television distribution is allocated. It is not the only particularity presented by the German championship, which reserves 4% for the presence and participation of local youth under 23 and 3% depending on the commercial interest conferred by a market study to each club according to a survey of more than 23,000 people over 14 years of age.
The rest of the leagues, on the other hand, allocate a significant percentage to the volume of television audiences, subscribers and tickets sold by each club. In Italy and France they allocate 20%. In Spain and England, 25%. In the Premier League, they do take into account the matches that are broadcast in the United Kingdom, because there are protected time slots in which matches are not televised in the country to encourage attendance at the field. Behind these criteria is another key aspect: the volume of business that moves the rights of each league. The Premier League, for example, distributed 2,536.8 million pounds (2,957.7 million euros) between the twenty clubs in the 2021-22 season. Almost double the 1,585 million that the League distributed. The other three major championships do not reach 1,000 million. This additional income, added to the fact that the regulations for registering players in the Premier League are more lax than those of the League, is another competitive advantage for English clubs.
Billionaires to the rescue
Despite the debts it incurs, which have reopened the debate on Barça’s ownership model, for the time being the club will continue to be owned by the members. Quite the opposite of what happens in England, where clubs keep changing hands. In 2018, Aston Villa was bought by two billionaires who rescued a debt-ridden entity after two years of management by Chinese conglomerate Recon Group. Nassef Sawiris, Egyptian businessman considered the second richest man in Africa, with an estimated fortune of about 8.9 billion dollars (7.924 million euros) according to Forbes, and Wesley Edens, an American tycoon who is said to have a fortune of 5.5 billion dollars (4.897 million euros), more than that accumulated by Todd Boehly, the owner of Chelsea, run the V Sports fund, which not only has capital to turn Unai Emery’s Aston Villa into a European power, but also wants to create its own football holding: they have already entered the Portuguese Vitória de Guimarães. And it won’t be the last club.
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