The Premier League model: Financial challenges in English football


With its worldwide appeal, highlighted by elite players and vibrant arenas, the English Premier League (EPL) stands as one of the pinnacles of football leagues globally. In this article, Marco Iaria from La Gazzetta dello Sport delves into the financial landscape of the league's 2022/23 season.

This article is a special contribution of Marco Iaria from La Gazzetta dello Sport to Football Benchmark.

An analysis of the finances of the 20 clubs participating in the 2022/23 season of the EPL reveals a collective deficit of €816 million for the past season.

Among the 20 clubs assessed, only four managed to eke out profits: Brighton & Hove Albion FC (+€141 million), Manchester City FC (+€92 million), AFC Bournemouth (+€51 million, although excluding an extraordinary income of €82 million related to the liquidation of former shareholders, it would have incurred a loss), and Brentford FC (+€13 million).

Conversely, the remaining clubs grapple with notable financial deficits: Aston Villa FC (-€138 million), Southampton FC (-€108 million), Chelsea FC (-€103 million), Leicester City FC (-€103 million), Everton FC (-€102 million), Tottenham Hotspur FC (-€100 million), Newcastle United FC (-€84 million), Nottingham Forest FC, and Wolverhampton (-€77 million).

Over the past few years, the English Premier League have consistently reported deficits: €1.087 billion in 2019/20, €786 million in 2020/21, and €668 million in 2021/22.

Even the pre-Covid era was not immune, with a loss of €206 million recorded in the 2018/19 season. The pandemic made the situation worse, causing a halt in operations and a subsequent €2.5 billion loss for the Premier League.

The last recorded aggregate profit dates back to the 2017/18 season, amounting to €360 million.

However, exacerbating this issue is the pandemic-induced hiatus endured between 2019 and 2021, resulting in a decrease of revenue for the Premier League.

After the pandemic, thanks to a resurgence in activity with stadia operating at full capacity, during the 2022/23 season the league's revenues soared to an unprecedented €7 billion.

Although revenue surged by over half a billion euros compared to the previous season (+8%), the bottom line of the income statement deteriorated further, with a deficit of €816 million compared to the €668 million recorded in the preceding season.

This is primarily attributed to the staff costs recorded in the 2022/23 season, as outlined in the following list:

  • Manchester City FC (€486 million)
  • Chelsea FC (€465 million)
  • Liverpool FC (€429 million)
  • Manchester United FC (€381 million)
  • Tottenham Hotspur FC(€289 million)
  • Arsenal FC (€270 million)
  • Leicester City FC (€237 million)
  • Aston Villa FC (€223 million)
  • Newcastle FC (€215 million)
  • Everton FC (€183 million)
  • Leeds United FC(€168 million)
  • Nottingham Forest FC (€167 million)
  • Wolverhampton Wanderers FC (€163 million)
  • Fulham FC (€160 million)
  • West Ham United FC (€157 million)
  • Crystal Palace FC (€149 million)
  • Brighton & Hove Albion FC (€147 million)
  • Southampton FC (€141 million)
  • AFC Bournemouth (€115 million)
  • Brentford FC (€114 million)

If we compare these numbers with Serie A clubs for instance, only Juventus FC (€282 million), FC Internazionale Milano (€227 million), AC Milan (€174 million), and AS Roma (€173 million) would surpass the lowest-paying Premier League club in terms of staff costs.

This cost inflationary trend can be attributed to the equitable distribution of broadcasting revenues within the EPL, fostering unprecedented prosperity.

Comparisons with the 2018/19 season, the last pre-pandemic period, shed light on the perilous financial trajectory. Despite a €1.1 billion uptick in revenue, expenses surged even more, with staff costs reaching €4.659 billion and player amortizations reaching €1.973 billion, representing a €1.6 billion increase.

Player trading profits surged to €800 million (from €490 million in 2018/19), offering a semblance of respite amidst mounting losses.

However, there are signs indicating that English football is potentially transitioning towards a more sustainable financial approach.

One such indicator is the English Premier League's Financial Fair Play regulations, colloquially known as PSR (Profitability and Sustainability Rules), which imposed penalties for non-compliance for the first time this year.

Moreover, Premier League clubs' cautious approach in the January transfer window, with only €132 million spent compared to the previous year's €843 million, underscores a potential shift towards financial prudence.