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European Football Investments: The Growth Story – Part II

June 10, 2024

European Football Investments: The Growth Story – Part II - SBI Barcelona

Continuing with the series on investments in European football, we explore the post-pandemic changes in investment & ownership structures. In the earlier part, we discussed how the pandemic has led to infusion of private capital and its penetration in top-tier European football

In this part we will specifically look at the increasing private equity (PE) ownership and rising multi-club ownership (MCO) structure

Private Equity

The extent of private capital through individual investors or private equity firms can be summarised from the fact, as financial data company Pitchbook states, that the investment has ballooned from less than €66 million ($71 million) in 2018 to some €5 billion ($5.4 billion) in Spain, France, Italy, Germany and England alone

Some PE firms like CVC Capital Partners took a different approach. Instead of investing in clubs, they invested in the Spanish LALIGA itself when it bought 8.25% stake in a new company that manages the leagues media rights for $2.1bn. That was first of its kind. German Bundesliga tried to do a similar deal but couldn’t arrive at a consensus with the participating teams

The extent of PE investment in the ‘big five’ leagues can be understood from the attached infographic

European Football Investments: The Growth Story – Part II - SBI Barcelona

As of 2023/24, a total of 37 clubs in the ‘big five‘ leagues have ties with private equity, venture capital or private credit the most prevalent of which is in Premier League with 11 clubs. In German clubs, as the Bundesliga’s ‘50+1’ rule prevents them from exerting the level of control that they want in return for their investment

Multi-Club Ownership Network

An evolution from private capital investment is the establishment of the multi-club ownership (MCO) structure. UEFA European Club Investment & Finance Landscape defines ‘multi-club ownership’ a situation where a party exerts control and/or decisive influence over more than one club, while ‘multi-club investment’ refers to a situation where a party has investment interests in more than one club (without exerting control or influence)

The attractiveness of MCOs to private equity investors lies in the core word ‘synergy’. A multi-pronged approach, the ‘synergies’ created by the group clubs can offer various benefits to its stakeholders. The infographic shares the benefits that can be generated

European Football Investments: The Growth Story – Part II - SBI Barcelona

In the recent few years, the rapid spread of MCO network has been astounding. What began as an ambitious idea from City Football Group has now engulfed estimatedly 366 clubs across the globe. According to research done by Play The Game, estimatedly 134 MCO groups now control or hold stakes in 366 clubs covering over 13,000 players

And this is on the rise!

European Top 20 Revenue Generating Clubs

An extent to which both these phenomena of private capital investment and multi-club ownership have established themselves can be gauged from a deep-dive in the top-20 revenue generating money league clubs (as per Deloitte Football Money League)

  • 57% or 17 of the top 30 money-league clubs are part of the multi-club ownership (MCO) network
  • 33% or 10 of the top 30 money-league clubs are part of both, the MCO network as well as PE connected
  • 47% or 14 of the top 30 money-league clubs backed by investors with a private equity (PE) connect
European Football Investments: The Growth Story – Part II - SBI Barcelona

Conclusion

Private capital investment and multi-club operating structure is here to stay and grow. Sooner or later, the controlling authorities will have to address them and create clear operating & participation regulations. According to UEFA Club Finance & Investment Landscape report, 39 of its 55 member associations have rules restricting MCO groups in their top divisions, but that does not give a clear answer

Charting a clear regulatory path as soon as possible would be ideal for the development of the game and for the stakeholders too   

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