4,173 million euros. This is the debt that Spanish professional football accumulates, which depends on Javier Tebas and La Liga, at the end of the 2020-21 season. The employer’s association has presented an advance of the economic result that is expected for the course that has just ended, and that will show losses of 733 million euros after the income has experienced a fall of close to 30%. Given that in the 2019-20 financial year, the gross debt shot up to 3,440 million euros, it is easy to assume the situation of ruin that plagues the 42 teams that make up professional football in Spain. To alleviate the lack of liquidity, the Control Commission will allow the clubs to exceed the salary limit again this next year, but that is bread for today and hunger for tomorrow because, in the end, the bills will have to be paid. Hard years are approaching for Spanish football. Very hard.
In the 2018-19 season, Spanish professional football presented profits of 77 million euros. They were days of wine and roses and money flowed without anyone worrying about looking for an alternative route despite the fact that there were already indications that, Under the surface, the reality was terrifying, as Florentino Pérez, who was the only one to imagine solutions such as the Superliga, rightly denounced in his day, meeting immediately with the total rejection of both Thebes and UEFA, who at all costs wanted to maintain their monopoly. Thebes could have allocated those 77 million to alleviate part of the global debt of the clubs by imposing stricter economic controls in exchange, but it was not done. So that?
Half a year later disaster struck. On March 10, Eibar-Real Sociedad was played in Ipurúa behind closed doors and two days later the League was suspended due to Covid. Initially for two weeks, which would become three months and a day, until the competition resumed in June with the match between Sevilla and Betis. Without an audience, without many sponsors and with the stadiums sealed except for players, coaches and assistants, the clubs went into a tailspin. In the 2019-2020 season, the gross debt of the 22 professional teams of the First and Second Division grew by 32.3%, reaching 3,440 million euros, which meant an increase of 849 million euros on the accumulated debt, which it was already 2,591 million euros. In total, the net debt of the clubs increased in the 2019-20 season by 77.7%, as admitted by the general director of LaLiga, Jose Guerra, in the presentation of the Financial Economic Report 2019-2020.
To alleviate the financial effects of the pandemic, the LaLiga Control Commission allowed the clubs to exceed the salary limit, but imposed a draconian condition on them: they could only allocate 25% of the money obtained by transfers or by releasing salary mass. The global limit was also lowered to 2,224 million euros, 109 less than initially planned, and another adjustment is expected this season. In the 2021-22 academic year, the measures that authorize the clubs to go beyond the salary limit assigned to them will be expanded, but the gaps will not be free: they will have to be gradually amortized in the following years and they will only be able to continue allocating a quarter of their income from transfers to transfers, except in cases in which the affected players account for more than 5% of the global wage bill. We are going to two practical cases: If Atlético transfers Saúl for 100 million euros, it can invest 50 million in transfers, corresponding to the 25% authorized and another 25% because Saúl’s 7 million net salary represents more than 5% of the overall workforce. On the other hand, if Barcelona sells Ansu Fati for that same money, he can only spend 25 million, since the forward has a much more contained salary.
“We are going to take time to recover from the losses this season,” admitted Tebas in the presentation of the financial report, in a ceremony in which he strongly defended the “robustness” of Spanish football. “Our debt ratios are good and we have the confidence of investors,” said the CEO Jose Guerra, who assured that LaLiga is prepared “to absorb the economic impact derived from the pandemic because we have a net worth of 1,767 million and a historical liquidity cushion.” However, beyond triumphalist demonstrations, the truth is that the debt grows without stopping and that Spanish football is not only increasingly far from English, but other competitions such as Italian, German and Spanish are already getting dangerously close to it. French. The numbers show it palpably: from 2014 to 2018 Spain tyrannized the Champions League, with five consecutive champions and two runners-up. In the last three years, on the other hand, not a single LaLiga club has reached the final. The change in trend is evident.
Florentino is right
The reality is even more heartbreaking: the impact of the coronavirus on LaLiga in the half season 2019-20 and throughout the 2020-21 has meant that 2,000 million euros were lost, which translates into a net deficit result of more than 1,000. It is estimated that transfers will fall by 56% this summer, leaving more than 350 million euros to move, and there are clubs like FC Barcelona -which Tebas accuses of having borrowed more than 700 million euros this season alone- that they have already been forced to refinance their debt while the general global does not stop growing: they are already 4,173 million euros in the red. Florentino Pérez was right: Spanish football is broken, no matter how much Tebas tries to hide it.