You can now find the University's latest news, events and blogs at port.ac.uk/news-events-and-blogs

Is Europa League an own goal?

Europa League games can damage a Premier League team’s domestic performance and taking part is not financially rewarding enough, according to new research.

Europa League potentially doesn’t add up: Dr Adam Cox

Europa League potentially doesn’t add up: Dr Adam Cox

Taking part in the Europa League, formerly UEFA Cup, does pay, but profits are easily swallowed up by the cost of paying for extra talent in both transfer fees and wages.

The research by Adam Cox, Sarah Gilmore and Alan Graham, of the University of Portsmouth, is published in the journal Soccer and Society.

Dr Cox said: “For many clubs, qualifying for the Europa League is a cause for celebration and can mark the highest achievement for that club in its history. It can also be a high point for individual players.

“But clubs qualifying for the Europa League face managing the tension between it being good or bad for their club. Any monies made often hinge on clubs using the Europa League as a marketing tool and getting more revenue from shirt sales and sponsorship. Some clubs are good at doing that but most aren’t. “There is arguably a case for UEFA to look again at the money it provides qualifiers.”

European football has changed dramatically since the 1990s, especially for clubs at the elite level, and the game is undergoing ‘Europe-isation’, according to the research.

UEFA provides generous financial rewards for clubs taking part in what some still regard as a ‘second-best’ competition. On the other hand, taking part puts additional pressure on squads, risking their health and the financial health of the club as they are forced to buy extra players.

The financial results rarely work out in clubs’ long-term favour, Dr Cox and colleagues found.

The researchers carried out a detailed analysis of four premiership clubs – Aston Villa FC, Everton FC, Fulham FC and Newcastle United FC – which entered the Europa League competition over eight seasons from 2005/06, measuring the costs and benefits associated with taking part.

For all four, qualification was considered a realistic goal rather than a consolation prize.

All four made profits out of  their Europa League seasons – from £2m for Aston Villa to £15m for Fulham – but the amounts were small compared to the upwards of 50m Euros seen in the Champions League.

The net value of taking part was measured by factors such as prize money, match-day revenues and the effects that Europa League participation had on Premier League performance money. Other less easily measured factors were also considered, including the possible morale boosting effect and the effect on players’ health, the perception of status achieved, and the ability to attract managerial and player talent.

Dr Cox said: “Of the four clubs, only Fulham FC made significant money from qualifying. In addition, all except Everton FC saw their performance in the Premier League suffer, with Newcastle United’s league position dropping by 11 places in the 2012/13 season. On average, taking part in Europa League games costs clubs 0.41 league points per game.

“It is often said that the extra demands imposed on clubs by qualifying for the Europa League, such as increased risk of injuries to already stretched squads, has an adverse effect on a squad’s premier league performance.

“You can’t put players out on Thursday, when Europa League games are played, and again on a Sunday, in the Premier League, and not expect to see an effect. The more games played, the greater the risk players will be injured.”

Richer clubs can avoid such problems by, for example, having more players, using lower ranked competitions to ‘blood’ new talent, reserving their best players for the most important games. But that is not often an option for cash-strapped clubs.

The researchers say clubs without deep pockets could still make money from qualifying for the Europa League but only if they heavily restrict spending on talent.

UoP News © 2019 All Rights Reserved