Business Insurance

These 7 Premier League Clubs Lost The Most Ticket Revenue As A Result of COVID-19

The financial impact of COVID-19 on professional sports was severe, as teams around the world were forced to suspend their play. When they did return, their stadiums and arenas were empty. How much did this cost the Premier League? We investigated just how much money Premier League clubs lost from ticket sales (and per-game season ticket refunds) as a result of COVID-19.

Our research has indicated that seven Premier League clubs each lost over £20,000,000 in revenue from ticket sales alone since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (and the postponement of professional football on March 13th 2019). The impact on club budgets, salaries and player count was felt almost immediately, as evidenced by a drop of 43% on transfer spending in the world’s 5 largest leagues in the summer transfer window of 2020. Which teams were hit hardest? We took a look at ticket prices and stadium sizes to find out. Here’s what we found.

The breakdown:

  • As a whole, the league lost over £365M in revenues from ticket sales (and refunded equivalent values for season tickets)
  • Predictably, big clubs took the worst hit - last season’s top 4 account for 27.5% of total losses
  • After moving into their new 62,303 capacity stadium, Tottenham are the club worst affected, with their average season ticket cost of £1,395 (and £80 matchday tickets) setting them back £51.5M
  • Less successful teams with larger stadiums were the worst impacted by lost income as a percentage of their income, with teams like West Ham and Newcastle both ranking in the top 4.

London clubs with big stadiums hit the worst

graph showing what % of their revenue premier league teams lost due to COVID-19

As a percentage of their 2019 revenues, Tottenham, West Ham and Arsenal are the 3 clubs to have lost the most as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps unsurprising when you consider that they have the 2nd, 3rd and 4th largest Premier League stadiums (respectively) in the country. However, global powerhouse Manchester United and the 74,994 capacity Old Trafford seem to have fared much better, losing under 6% of their total revenues as a result of spectators being banned from games.

Chelsea’s comparatively modest 41,631 Stamford Bridge naturally lowered the amount lost and the impact on revenues - our estimates have The Blues losing under £23M from Premier League games since stadiums were closed (compared to over £45M for Arsenal and Tottenham)—just 5.08% of their revenue for the 2018/19 season.

Interestingly, while Tottenham and Arsenal’s tickets are very expensive, NimbleFins research indicated that compared to each region’s average after-tax income, they were actually relatively affordable, especially compared to the rest of the UK.

The “Top 4” weren’t hit as hard

The traditional “Top 4” of Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United make up 4 of the bottom 6 in terms of revenue % lost, with smaller Burnley and West Bromwich Albion taking the other two spots - perhaps unsurprising given that neither has a spectator capacity over 27,000.

While TV revenues are down overall due to rebates on commercial contracts due to fixture cancellation (and some has been deferred into 2021 and beyond) it’s probably fair to say these 4 clubs fared better than most, and their Summer 2020 transfer window spending would reflect that - with the 4 clubs making up 42% of transfer spending by the Premier League.

The long term impact?

The challenges COVID-19 presented Premier League clubs were exceptionally difficult, with clubs having to make tough decisions on players, staff and even team mascots, as popular Arsenal figure Jerry Quy (“Gunnersaurus”) was a casualty of the club’s cost-cutting measures. However, most believe that things will quickly recover at the end of the pandemic - with Deloitte even estimating that 2020/21 revenues will exceed pre-pandemic levels.

As COVID-19 medicine and availability improves, it’s not impossible to imagine a future where fans return to stadiums, television contracts return to normal and competition payouts for the Premier League, FA Cup and Carabao Cup reach pre-virus levels. It’s also inevitable clubs will be more cautious with their spending in the future (and likely run a slimmer, trimmed down operational model for backroom staff).

However, overall the future for Premier League clubs looks bright, certainly more so than it did 6 months ago, and if anything the past few months of sports fixtures have only consolidated the position of professional sports as an escape from the real world.

Total Ticket Revenue Lost By Premier League Clubs As A Result Of COVID-19

graph showing how much total revenue premier league teams lost due to COVID-19
TeamRank for Ticket Revenue LostTicket Revenue (£) LostRank for % Revenue Lost% Revenue lost
Manchester United3£32,976,737105.59%
West Ham United5£23,036,605213.16%
Manchester City7£20,796,933154.16%
Newcastle United8£19,075,731410.72%
Leeds United9£14,260,584N/AN/A
Aston Villa10£13,094,781N/AN/A
Brighton and Hove Albion11£12,556,51759.03%
Crystal Palace15£10,649,81977.10%
Leicester City16£9,805,55786.17%
Sheffield United17£8,887,973N/AN/A
West Bromwich Albion19£6,477,423125.18%
Some clubs publicly available revenue numbers are from when they were in the Championship, which tell an inconsistent story—these clubs had their Revenue % figures omitted. Needless to say lower division clubs, who rely more heavily on ticket sales, were likely worse impacted due to the pandemic.

Data and research was gathered from:

Stadium capacities were estimated to be roughly 75% season ticket holders and 25% single ticket holders. A single ticket was estimated as being 10% more expensive than the per game cost of the average Premier League season ticket, roughly in line with estimates by Sports Interactive. Therefore the "per game loss" was solved as:

graph showing how much total revenue premier league teams lost due to COVID-19
Luke Masters

Prior to NimbleFins, Luke studied economics at Brunel University and worked at FreshMinds, Investigo and BMW. His work in data analytics, pricing, strategy and business development helped him write business insurance content to support SMEs at NimbleFins. He now works at DataPOWA, a sports & entertainment data analytics company. Read more on LinkedIn.