Manchester United managed to turn an operating profit of £48.5m for the three months leading up to 31 December 2020, despite matchday revenue being almost completely wiped out because Old Trafford remains closed to fans. The difference is revenue from the Champions League.
The Champions League is not just the most prestigious club trophy from a sporting sense, it is incredibly lucrative to any club that takes part and the associated revenue from broadcasting and prize money dwarfs that which is available in the Europa League.
United’s broadcasting revenue between the end of September and the end of December, covering the Champions League group stage, was up 68% to £108.7m. During the same three months last season when the club was in the Europa League, it accounted for £64.7m.
That massive spike in revenue was able to make up for a slight drop in commercial revenue, down 11% on the same period last season, and a 95.5% reduction in matchday income for obvious reasons.
Despite the obvious major hurdles, United’s total revenue for the quarter still came in at £172.8m, up 2.6% on Q2 last season, which was before the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
The boost from playing in the Champions League alone, covering the shortfalls elsewhere, underlines just why it is so important to finish in the Premier League top four to qualify every single season – something that United haven’t consistently done in recent years.
Net debt has climbed 16% to £455.5m from this time last year. The club puts that down to a loss of 2020/21 matchday receipts and the impact of deferred sponsorship payments, which have only been partially offset by increased broadcasting revenue.
Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has expressed hope that the ongoing vaccination programme in the UK and internationally will soon mean a return to normality.
“The rapid rollout of vaccines in the UK and beyond gives us confidence that we are now on a path towards normality, including the return of fans to stadia,” he said.
“While the disruption to our operations remains significant, we are pleased by the tremendous resilience the club has demonstrated through the pandemic, underpinned by the dedication of our people and the strength of our commercial business.
“We have been reminded of the importance of football as a source of community, entertainment and pride to fans around the world, even as we have sorely missed them at Old Trafford.
“The progress made by Ole and the players this season is clear and our thriving Academy and Women’s team are also adding to the optimism we feel about the future on and off the pitch.”