GENEVA — Amid a cash crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, European soccer clubs were told Tuesday that UEFA is repaying 575 million euros ($680 million) to broadcasters because of the disruption to the Champions League and Europa League.
UEFA sales of broadcasting and sponsorship rights for its club competitions were set to earn 3.25 billion euros ($3.8 billion) annually through the 2020-21 season.
“That is all money that is not going to be distributed,” European Club Association chairman Andrea Agnelli said about the rebate in a speech to about 250 member clubs in an online assembly.
Until the pandemic forced UEFA competitions to be restructured and fewer games played in the knockout rounds, participating clubs were due to share 2.55 billion euros ($3 billion) in prize money from UEFA.
“We are in the process of finalizing the accounts with UEFA with a reduction of around 575 million (euros) for the international club competitions,” Agnelli said, referring to rebates for broadcasters.
It was unclear if all the returned money will come from clubs' share of revenues, or if UEFA would also lose expected income.
Agnelli, the president of Italian champion Juventus, said clubs were still in crisis management mode and the full picture would not be known until annual accounts begin to be published within weeks. He predicted some individual clubs would suffer bigger losses than an entire soccer confederation, such as European body UEFA.
The ECA previously predicted in July that European clubs would see revenue drop by 4 billion euros ($4.7 billion) over last season and this season in fallout from the pandemic.
Agnelli also cited falling domestic revenues, including a 330 million pound ($430 million) rebate to broadcasters by the Premier League and a 200 million euro ($236 million) downturn for domestic rights in Germany.
“This new season is going to be very, very challenging both on and off the pitch,” Agnelli said, adding playing without fans in almost empty stadiums was a problem that united all soccer clubs.
“It is not just the atmosphere that the sport generates, it’s also the complete wipeout of a very important source of revenue for everybody,” he said.
Agnelli also predicted a drop in the price when commercial deals such as shirt sponsorship are renewed.
“We are not in the position to deliver some of the rights we promised,” he said. “I am quite sure we are going to see a rebate on this.”
The knock-on effect was a likely shrinking of the transfer market value by 20-30%, Agnelli said.
Agnelli spoke to the biannual ECA assembly weeks before the group is due to resume taking part in UEFA-led talks on reforming the Champions League and other club competitions from 2024.
Elite clubs like Juventus were previously blocked in their push for more revenue-generating games in the Champions League and a format that would make it harder for teams from mid-ranking nations to qualify.
At a subsequent news conference, Agnelli suggested the spring of 2022 as a deadline to agree on reforms before the European club competitions are marketed to broadcasters.
By then, a full picture of club finances — particularly for smaller clubs more reliant on matchday income from fans attending games — would be clearer, Agnelli said.
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Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press