Manchester United, the giants from English soccer’s top-tier Premier League, suffered a loss in revenue of £14.9 million ($20.4 million) during the 2020-21 financial year, and also saw their net loss for those 12 months come to £92.2 million, up from £23.2 million the year before. 

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the vast majority of Premier League games for all clubs taking place behind closed doors last season, led to increased losses and decreased revenues at the Manchester club, despite the club’s broadcast income almost doubling.

Revenue fell year-on-year from £509 million in 2019-20 to £494.1 million last season, in accounts for the year published today, with the 92 per cent drop in matchday revenue – from £89.8 million to £7.1 million – largely responsible. 

United only held one Premier League game with fans all season, with their last game of the season at home to Fulham watched by a limited-capacity crowd. 

However, broadcasting revenue was on the up, rising 81.7 per cent year-on-year, from £140.2 million to £254.8 million last season. Last season, that sum came to 51.6 per cent of United’s total revenue, up from 27.6 per cent the year before.

The interest in media rights income was due to a number of factors – United’s participation in the group stages of European soccer’s prestigious Uefa Champions League, its impressive run to the final of the Uefa Europa League (after being knocked out of the Champions League) and the fact that more Premier League games than usual were held in the 2020-21 financial year. 

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Because the end of 2019-20 was delayed to July last year by the pandemic’s initial surge, this meant 10 matches were held in the first quarter of FY2021, meaning the extra broadcast revenue (all games were televised with fans unable to attend matches in person at that point) made a considerable difference to the overall balance sheet. 

United had not been involved in the 2019-20 Champions League, meaning last season’s involvement – even only during the group stages – represented something of a windfall.

The club’s commercial revenue fell, however, by 16.8 per cent year-on-year, to £242.2 million – the 23.3-per-cent fall in sponsorship revenue, due to no 2020-21 pre-season tour taking place, with all the various sponsorship activations that these tours involve, was primarily responsible for this. 

During the 202-21 financial year, however, the club did renew three commercial deals, and also struck new deals with brands including Ecolab and Renewable Energy Group.

A new main front-of-shirt arrangement for the current season has also been concluded, with TeamViewer.

Income from retail, merchandising and apparel also fell by 4.5 per cent, to £92 million, as the lack of in-person visits to the club’s Megastore last season was partially offset by an increase in online sales. 

Operating expenses for the year meanwhile rose to £538.4 million, an increase of 3.1 per cent year-on-year, with a rise in players’ contracts – due to participation in the Champions League – partly responsible for this. 

The club’s net EBITA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation, came to £95.1 million, while its net debt has decreased 11.5 per cent year-on-year, and now stands at £419.5 million.

Ed Woodward, the executive vice-chairman of the club (who will leave at the end of this calendar year), said: “Everyone associated with Manchester United can be proud of the resilience we have shown through the challenges created by the pandemic and we look forward to the rest of the season and beyond with great optimism.

“This was made possible by the strength of our operating model, with sustained investment in the team underpinned by robust commercial revenues.”