PETALING JAYA, 29 May 2020 – Germany’s Bundesliga became the first international league to return to the pitch on 16 May (albeit behind closed doors) following suspension of matches due to the coronavirus pandemic. While the sporting world and national leaders observe with as much trepidation as hope, there is no denying that the sporting hiatus brought about by the pandemic has created an unprecedented complexity of logistical, financial and legal issues and dilemmas for the European football ecosystem.
Andrea Sartori, Partner, KPMG’s Global Head of Sports, highlights that the stakes are massive in the case of a cancellation of the football season, with estimated revenue losses in the big five leagues possibly exceeding EUR 4 billion. On the other hand, he opines that a restart and completion of the season in the following months behind closed doors would lead to aggregate revenue losses of around one-third to one-fifth of the total loss estimated for a full cancellation of the season.
“Two key related dilemmas faced by stakeholders in the football ecosystem centre around scheduling the remaining fixtures in domestic leagues and in UEFA competitions; and minimising losses. Among the key concerns that arise in this regard include how the coronavirus disruption will impact clubs' spending power; and the value of players now following the pandemic,” he says.
To address this, KPMG’s Football Benchmark special report – Player value not immune to pandemic – analyses what factors impact the values of players with ‘the beautiful game’ on hold, and provides value estimates for two potential scenarios: a cancellation of the season and a restart and completion of the ongoing season in the following months.
While acknowledging that the coronavirus disruption will certainly have an impact on players’ market value, the report states that financial constraints will likely also lead to a decrease both in the volume of transactions and in transfer fees, and to an increase in the number of swap and loan deals.
This could create a “buyer’s market”, in which a minority of clubs could exploit the difficult financial position of their counterparts, possibly getting players at a lower price than would have been possible up until the last transfer window. Those who are financially strong and have been able to maintain sustainable liquidity will be in a much powerful position. Meanwhile, those in dire straits and which are more reliant on matchday income and player trading activities will be more severely affected. They might have to sell players, often for less, to make ends meet. Specifically, clubs whose business model depends on player trading will be the most impacted.
KPMG’s report also suggests that players’ transfer window could play a factor in their value. Football stakeholders have been used to two main transfer windows: June-July-August in the summer and January in the winter. There could be significant changes to the status-quo, which could be reflected in players’ values.
Another factor that may have a significant impact on players' values, according to the report, is the remaining length on a player’s contract, which is often an important variable in determining a player's value, because the current employer faces the risk of losing the player as a free agent once his contract runs out. In this unique situation, such a circumstance is likely to have a higher impact than usual: the more time a player has until the expiration of his contract, the more limited the impact on his value will be.
Meanwhile, players’ age would also constitute a considerable factor in their valuation – the older the player, the higher the impact. This is due to the fact that younger professional footballers are assumed to be more resilient to changes.
All the above factors present a situation in which most clubs are unsure what the value of their players will be. However, KPMG’s Football Benchmark team has updated the market values of players included in its Player Valuation Tool, which follows a unique approach. Players’ market values will be impacted differently depending on the recovery conditions of the football industry in the various football markets under consideration.
Specifically, three factors are taken into consideration – the impact on clubs’ financial situation and estimated revenue loss; the duration of forced rest time for players; and missed opportunities for players to perform and showcase their skills in view of potential transfers or contract extensions.
As a consequence, KPMG has identified two distinct scenarios which mirror the uncertainty surrounding the potential resumption of football competitions. The first is where the 2019/20 season is cancelled while the second scenario is finishing the season matches behind closed doors.
Scenario one is naturally the worst-case scenario, although KPMG opines that revenue losses will be compensated by player salary renegotiations. Meanwhile, the second scenario would also allow players to actually perform on-pitch and hence enable them to potentially drive their market value up, based on their sporting achievement.
KPMG’s recent analysis has revealed that the aggregate value of all 4,183 the players in the 10 European Leagues under consideration decreased by a total of almost EUR 10 billion – a 26.5% drop since February for Scenario 1, whilst players’ values would decrease by EUR 6.6 billion, a 17.7% decrease in Scenario 2.
All in all, players under long-term contracts have seen a smaller decrease in their value, while younger players and star footballers have also been more resistant to drops in value.
KPMG has looked at players’ updated market values according to both scenarios and have selected the mid-point between the two scenarios to establish the new top 20 ranking. The list remains fairly unchanged with Romelo Lukaku, Kai Havertz and Matthijs de Ligt integrating the top 20 most valuable players at the expense of Roberto Firmino, Bernardo Silva and Paul Pogba, the latter seeing his value drop by 29% in Scenario 1 and 21% in Scenario 2.
With regards to leagues, the English Premier League, which is far ahead of all others in terms of total market value, is seeing the greatest aggregate loss in value, amounting to EUR 2.7 billion in Scenario 1 and EUR 1.8 billion in Scenario 2.
Read the full Player value not immune to pandemic report here.
For more insights, visit www.footballbenchmark.com
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