Swiss professional football and the pandemic
Analysis of the financial situation of the Swiss Super League clubs and the impact of COVID-19
Welcome to Deloitte Switzerland's financial analysis of the Swiss Super League, in which we present the financial situation of selected Swiss clubs. The original study by Deloitte UK’s Sports Business Group was published in January 2021 and is already in its 24th edition. The "Football Money League" contains information on the 20 top clubs in Europe with the highest revenues and has been one of Deloitte's most renowned studies for years. In this first Swiss edition, we provide insights into the financial situation of the Swiss Super League clubs, with a special focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The key findings of our report are:
- BSC Young Boys (YB) and FC Basel are the top duo in economic terms: in 2020, the two clubs reported the highest operating revenues (excluding transfer fees) with CHF 27.5 million for FC Basel and CHF 36.2 million for YB, but they also lost the most money as a result of the pandemic (both over CHF 20 million)
- Only FC Basel (54%) and FC St. Gallen (41%) have a healthy equity ratio with the remaining clubs showing either negative or only just positive equity
- The clubs analysed lost CHF 81 million in operating revenue in 2020 compared to the previous year. This is largely due to the drop in matchday revenues (-57%)
- As the percentage of revenues coming from television and marketing in Switzerland is quite low, COVID-19 hit the Swiss Football League harder than others: Before the pandemic, Swiss football clubs made 35% of their operating revenues on the matchday, while matchday revenues at the top international clubs only account for about 16% of operating revenues
The analysis focuses on the seven Swiss Super League clubs that have consistently participated in the top division during the past three seasons (seasons 18/19, 19/20 and 20/21).
Fig. 1: Ranking according to 2020 operating revenue (Source: Club information, Deloitte analysis)
The impact of the pandemic has created an unprecedented challenge for Swiss professional football. However, every crisis also offers an opportunity to correct entrenched structural errors that were difficult to eliminate in the past, and football is no exception. In order to meet the challenges of the pandemic in the best possible way, flexible action is required from all stakeholders involved (association, league, clubs, players, politics, etc.).
The pandemic’s impact on the Swiss football league
Fig. 2: Effect of the COVID 19 pandemic on the Swiss Super League’s season schedule
The pandemic hit the Swiss Super League at its core, with matchday revenues collapsing as a result of games being played at empty stadiums. While the clubs of the European top leagues are less dependent on the income from matchdays, mainly thanks to the marketing of media rights, the dependence of the Swiss clubs on spectator income is glaring.
In an analysis of the financial figures of the Swiss clubs published as part of their licensing process over the past three years, it can be stated that even before COVID-19, local clubs were facing economic challenges. Often, the economic survival of the clubs hinged on private sponsors. Success at the European level (participation in the Champions League and/or Europa League) or income from player transfers may generate revenues that compensate for the structural deficit but these revenues are inconsistent and mostly reserved for certain clubs in the league. This thereby reinforces the inequality among clubs. Moreover, the pandemic is also likely to result in a short-term reduction of money available in the transfer market. The pandemic has also brought to light the financial risks in Swiss professional football and exacerbated the situation of the individual smaller clubs.
Our analysis is based on the financial figures published by the clubs based on the licensing provisions of the Swiss Football League (SFL) and UEFA. The main analysis is limited to the seven clubs of the Swiss Super League that have consistently participated in the top division over the past three seasons. The total revenues listed in the study is limited to matchday revenues, commercial revenues and revenues from the marketing of media rights. Given their high volatility as well as their limited informative value for the sustainable value creation of football clubs, transfer fee revenues have not been included in our analyses and are only mentioned sporadically in connection with the development of a club's finances.