Football fans think it’s a dream job. But for the bosses of Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and other top clubs, life is not easy. Sports industry expert Matt Rogan explains what are the key assumptions and goals of CEOs in the English league this season.
Every year at this time I talk to my mates in the pub. They ask me ‘How difficult can it be to run a Premier League club? After all, these clubs are money-printing machines.”
It’s easy to understand why they think that. Almost every hour there is some new deal or news in the news, especially this time of year as Transfer Deadline Day approaches. However, despite the flowing income, running a football club is a huge challenge, especially this year.
Let’s start with the pleasant news for the owners. Last year, around 15 million fans around the world watched Premier League matches. The league currently receives 44 per cent of all money foreign broadcasters around the world spend on football outside its home market. The top 40 Premier League and Championship clubs generated a massive £41 billion in revenue over the ten years to 2020. If there’s so much money in it, where’s the catch? It turns out that there is no shortage of worries and responsibilities. Being the president of the Premier League is harder than it looks.
1. Sign big names (offering small salaries).
Despite this £41bn turnover, teams in England’s top two leagues lost a combined £3.1bn in taxes alone. This is mainly due to the cost of top players. Chelsea spent £959m on players last season, Arsenal £586m and Tottenham £481m.
And here’s the catch. Every summer, big teams bolster their ranks – by not investing, you risk being left behind. UEFA mandates that player costs can be “only” 70 percent of revenue. . . and in fact, many clubs are on the verge of bankruptcy trying to sign players whose names will sell on new shirts.
There are few industries where the cost of “labour” accounts for 70 percent of total revenue. This leaves very little room for a sensible, profitable business. Premier League clubs are leaking buckets – the more money goes into a club, the more pressure there is to bring in new players.
2. Find new sources of income.
So what if the stars are supposed to stay in the league but you can’t get past the wretched 70 percent? You need more income, and that’s not easy.
First, you have no control over the broadcast rights, which is the biggest check you get. The Premier League takes care of them.
sponsorship? This market is shrinking for everyone except the biggest clubs. Most shirt sponsors wouldn’t pay enough to sign one player a year. Some of the biggest players are also disappearing. Cigarettes and alcohol have long since left the scene, gambling will likely be next, followed by cryptocurrency. Ticket prices are also a sensitive topic, due to the growing lobbying of fan groups and the watchful eye of the government. Even the sale of shirts is more of a challenge than usual, as the shirts of all teams can also be purchased in China or Turkey. No wonder Super League rumors don’t go away. . .
“From the beginning, we wanted to have as full stadiums as possible,” says Warwick. “Not only at England games, but throughout the tournament. With women’s competitions, there’s often a lot of people at home games and then less spectators at other games, and that’s something we really wanted to change.”
“In the beginning we had to choose the stadiums. We need big arenas and we got them. We took an ambitious approach and chose Old Trafford for the opening and then the final at Wembley. We have five or six Premier League stadiums, but we also have those smaller capacity stadiums that allow us to fill them up and communicate that seats are running out and achieve the effect of fear of losing. I think it really helped in terms of increasing the demand for other matches.”
The Local Organizational Structure has appointed five agencies to meet its sales targets, including Two Circles, which provides fan information and data analytics to increase visitor numbers. M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment is running a public relations and communications campaign to bring attention to the tournament, with Matta, Threepipe Reply and Heart Productions supporting the organization of the event.
As for attendees, Warwick says the association uses a focused CRM strategy to attract women with whom the board already has built relationships, but efforts have also been made to reach out to attendees at similar events. The remaining tickets are expected to sell when the tournament starts.
“Things are constantly changing,” adds Jenny Mitton, Business Director and Women’s Sports Director at M&C Saatchi Sport and Entertainment when asked about audience demographics. “At first, they were mostly dedicated women’s football fans, but since the sale started, we’ve noticed a few other groups that we didn’t expect would be so strong.”
“The classic model is of course ‘fathers with children’. There were many single men buying tickets with many children. Also gene Z appears more and more. The last sales figures we looked at were 39% of Gen-Z tickets, so you can see a growing commitment from them.”
“So the range is getting wider. Until they started selling tickets, I don’t think they knew what the whole audience was going to look like. So it’s the job of the communications team and the marketing team to get our message across to all the target groups we don’t reach.”
The diversity of the audience is undoubtedly one of the things that appeals to the wide range of brands that have signed up as sponsors for Women’s Euro 2022. There are 13 official Women’s Euro partners, including Heineken, Adidas, Visa, Nike, Volkswagen and Hublot.
The most interesting is the presence of brands less present in broadly understood football and sports marketing, such as Euronics and Grifols. This proves UEFA’s decision to separate patronage rights over women’s goods from men’s goods, which may have reduced the entry costs of new partners.
But there are similar trends at the local level, with sponsorships offered by Lego, LinkedIn, Pandora, Starling Bank and Gillette Venus. Again, with one or two exceptions, we are dealing with companies that are not usually associated with sport, indicating that brands are increasingly seeing opportunities in sponsoring women that better meet their needs and are more oriented to their values . For example, Starling is a founder-managed bank in a male-dominated industry, so it’s no surprise that the Women’s Euro seemed to be a good fit for the company.
“These are really premium brands, which really impresses me,” says Mitton. “If you look at men’s sponsorship, you’ll see a lot of car brands, cryptocurrencies that you may not have heard of, but for women’s Euros, they’re super-premium and mostly new to football. I think it shows faith in the future of women’s sport and the target audience it attracts. It’s a large, diverse pool of people, probably younger than other sports.”
These brands will have the opportunity to exhibit their company during the so-called fan zones, which will be organized in nine cities where the matches will take place. The FA works closely with these venues to ensure a consistent look, whether it’s London, Leigh, Sheffield or Southampton. As always, however, the point is that over the next three weeks, at least some people will become fans of women’s football – both in England and in other countries participating in the Euro.
Record-breaking events are becoming the norm, but there is still a long way to go before the same interest and investment can be felt in the country. The FA believes that at grassroots level, the tournament will create 500,000 inclusive opportunities for women and girls to play football. Most importantly, it is hoped that the thrilling tournament will also help fill stadiums at Women’s Super League matches, for which the women’s football authorities plan to increase the average number of spectators per game to 6,000 by 2024.
Looking at Euro 2022 Women, one can get the impression that this event is on the right track to create a model and benchmark for organizing future editions. In addition to sponsorship investments and ambitious ticket sales targets, the EY report estimates that the tournament will generate £54m in economic activity for host cities, something that will not go unnoticed by other potential organizing countries. England probably didn’t even realize the scale to which the tournament would grow, and UEFA has already registered record interest in organizing Euro 2025. Countries are increasingly aware of business opportunities related to women’s sports events.
With so many promises, all that remains is for the tournament to live up to expectations. It certainly brings its pressures, but Warwick is confident the product will still hold its own.
“We want to break records,” he says. “We don’t see this as a turning point. To be honest, I think that stage is already behind us. They are elite athletes performing at a major event. This sport is only going in one direction and the potential for growth is huge.”
“It’s not a burden to carry because it’s all just exciting; we can’t wait to break different records.
”The article was based on the translation of Sam Carp’s analysis from SportsPro entitled “This is a mega event in everyone’s eyes’: How Women’s Euro 2022 is setting a new benchmark for engagement and commercial activity”