GENEVA (AP) — In a record result for European soccer, top-tier clubs combined to make a first-time profit of 600 million euros ($694 million) last year with spending on player transfers included.
UEFA research — involving 711 clubs’ financial accounts ending in 2017 — showed they turned around a 300-million euro loss ($347 million) the previous year, European soccer’s governing body said Sunday.
The clubs’ total revenue of 20.1 billion euros ($23.2 billion) extended a trend of annual rises at around 10 percent.
UEFA said 27 of 54 top-tier divisions in its member countries were profitable. That’s up from eight in 2011 when UEFA began monitoring accounts of all clubs qualifying to enter the Champions League and Europa League.
“Thanks to Financial Fair Play, European football is healthier than ever before,” UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin said in a statement.
“Financial Fair Play has provided the platform for clubs to control their costs and pay their debts,” Ceferin said. “This success, this new stability is a result of the work done by UEFA and its member associations in introducing licensing systems including cost control mechanisms which have yielded much improved financial discipline.”
The combined profit was made despite many millions of dollars leaving the European soccer system as clubs bought players from outside the continent.
UEFA said the operating profit of all clubs — before player transfers and financing were taken into account — was a collective 1.4 billion euros ($1.62 billion).
Booming values of broadcasting rights have largely driven the rising revenues, including deals made around the world for the Champions League and the popularity of the English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga.
For the next three years, UEFA will pay 30 percent increased prize money in its two club competitions. The 32 Champions League teams this season will share 1.95 billion euros ($2.25 billion) from UEFA.
UEFA noted that 18 of 20 Premier League clubs were profitable for their financial year ending June 2017, with 638 million euros ($737 million) total increase in revenue from television.
Though perceived as a high-salary league, UEFA said the English top division had wages under tighter control. Clubs paid players 56 percent of their total revenue in 2017 compared to 71 percent four years earlier.
Italy’s Serie A, which can now expect higher revenue after Juventus signed Cristiano Ronaldo, is also trending the right way. The 20 clubs showed a collective profit after tax of 3.7 percent due to increased transfer income.
Middle-ranking leagues in Portugal and the Netherlands made a profit after tax of at least 10 percent due to selling players to bigger leagues, UEFA said.
Still, UEFA has introduced a new check on rising spending, in part because of AC Milan’s 200-plus million euros transfer splurge one year ago. Milan had to win an appeal against expulsion from this season’s Europa League and now faces a lesser UEFA sanction in an ongoing case.
Clubs whose net spending on players exceeds 100 million euros, or seem to have too much debt, must show UEFA a plan to balance its books.
“The new regulations will further allow UEFA to act more swiftly and anticipate problems before they become too big,” Ceferin said.
Around 10 clubs have been contacted by UEFA in recent months, though this includes some English clubs which are not seen as a risk.
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