REVEALED: Premier League clubs are likely to refund season-ticket holders and corporate clients £177MILLION with 2019-20 set to finish behind closed doors
- Premier League clubs face a substantial combined loss due to coronavirus crisis
- The top flight outfits may lose £177million in season ticket and hospitality sales
- Games behind closed doors would leave clubs liable to refund fans and clients
- The majority of clubs have already been hit due to suspending season tickets
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
Premier League clubs are facing combined losses of up to £177million in season ticket and corporate hospitality sales due to the coronavirus crisis.
Analysis undertaken by Sportsmail reveals that the 20 top-flight clubs were projecting income of around £708m from match-day revenue this season, with almost a quarter of that set to be lost as a result of the shutdown.
All of the various plans being put in place to restart the season later this summer are based on Premier League matches being played behind closed doors, which will leave clubs liable to offer refunds to fans and corporate clients who are unable to attend.
Premier League clubs are facing combined losses of up to £177million due to coronavirus crisis
Analysis found that almost a quarter of a projected match day £708million income will be lost
Alternatively, clubs could seek to maintain their cash levels in the short term by offering a like-for-like discount on next season’s tickets — assuming fans will be permitted to attend by then — but, either way, they are looking at taking a significant financial hit.
The Premier League’s own analysis, presented to captains of each team on that infamous conference call over a week ago, showed that clubs stood to lose £1.137billion overall from the impact of coronavirus, but the bulk of that figure came from the £762m league bosses claimed would be due in rebates to broadcast rights holders if the season is voided, which has yet to be determined.
Indeed, Sky Sports have indicated that they will not seek a refund on the £371m worth of matches that have so far been postponed even if the season is cancelled, as Sportsmail reported last weekend, and all parties remain determined to complete the campaign in some form.
But the prospect of being forced to refund ticket money to fans is a real and imminent concern for all clubs, the vast majority of whom are already losing out as a result of suspending season ticket and corporate sales for next season.
The various plans to restart the season are based on games being played behind closed doors
Of the 20 Premier League clubs, 17 have suspended the season ticket renewal process — Newcastle, Everton and Norwich are the exceptions, although they will offer payment holidays if requested.
The renewal process usually provides a much-needed source of income at this time of year.
Premier League clubs recorded season ticket sales of over £400m for this campaign. And although many fans opt to pay monthly via direct debit, a significant proportion pay up front every April so the suspension of renewals has already led to a considerable loss of income, even before the thorny issue of refunds.
Based on the latest Government guidance that social distancing will remain part of British life for several months, it is unlikely that any of the season’s remaining matches will be played in front of fans.
The majority of clubs have already committed to offering refunds or future discounts to fans who cannot attend rescheduled matches, and the others will surely follow after reviewing their ticketing policies.
Refunding season-ticket holders either in cash or discounts will cost Premier League clubs a total of £101m based on this year’s prices, and that figure rockets to £177m when corporate sales and other matchday income is taken into account.
Top flight clubs will be liable to offer refunds to fans and corporate clients unable to attend
Although they have other income streams to support them, the biggest clubs will be the worst affected by the loss of ticket revenue, with Manchester United making over £110m on matchdays last season, at least a quarter of which is now in jeopardy.
Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham all made over £80m in ticket and hospitality sales, with the immediate loss of around £20m going some way to explaining why the latter two clubs took the controversial decision to furlough non-playing staff — although both have now reversed that move.
The smaller clubs have far less to lose in terms of gate receipts and are far more reliant on broadcast income, so should be able to continue operating relatively unscathed provided their games take place eventually.
Bournemouth, Burnley and Watford, for example, all took less than £10m in ticket sales last season, compared to over £100m in television money.
Some of the broadcast fees are handed out according to league position and television appearances, but the distribution remains relatively equitable and the gap in income levels between the teams is far less than the corresponding figures for ticket and commercial revenue.
Champions Manchester City received the most in TV and prize money last season – at £147.5m
Champions Manchester City received the most in TV and prize money last season — £147.5m — but even bottom club Huddersfield Town, who won just three league games, were paid £93.6m by the broadcasters. The biggest fear for all clubs is that the problem of ticket sales will worsen, as there is no guarantee that fans will be permitted inside grounds next season whenever it starts, and many may choose to stay away in any case for health or financial reasons.
The Premier League have been proud of championing stadium occupancy rates of over 95 per cent for several years, not least as a response to complaints about ticket prices, but such capacity crowds can no longer be guaranteed.
For all the rows and recriminations over broadcasting contracts, the television product will return at some point. But the bigger issue for clubs might be the dwindling financial contribution of matchgoing fans.
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