Belgian football clubs face financial crisis with record losses

Belgian professional football is struggling with financial instability, as a recent report from UEFA reveals a record loss of 193 million euros for the 2022-2023 season. The figures come on the heels of a previous record loss of 156 million euros in the preceding season, raising concerns about the financial viability of the country's clubs.

The report indicates that only six of the 25 professional clubs in Belgium closed their annual accounts with a surplus, calling into question the overall financial health of the league. National champions Antwerp had a net loss of 46 million euros, followed by Zulte Waregem, Lommel, Oud-Heverlee Leuven, AA Gent, and Standard, all deeply in the red.

Belgium's wage bill

The UEFA analysis points to Belgium's excessive wage bill as a primary factor. The country pays an average of 24 million euros a year in player wages, comparable to the Netherlands and Portugal. However, when examining the median, the average Belgian club pays 16 million euros, in contrast to 11 million in the Netherlands and 6 million in Portugal.

The report highlights the unsustainability of the current wage structure. “A wage-to-income ratio of 88 per cent is unviable in the current market,” it said.

Belgium's strategy of offsetting losses through transfers has been hindered by the quiet transfer market, worsened by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The inability to sell players to the lucrative English Premier League, coupled with rising operational costs, has placed additional strain on the financial stability of Belgian football.

Implementing a salary ceiling

To address the financial crisis, the Pro League has proposed a salary ceiling, meaning clubs can spend no more 70 per cent of their budget on player wages from 2025. Pro League CEO Lorin Parys acknowledged the need for clubs to curb their upward wage trajectory and the importance of fiscal responsibility to ensure long-term sustainability.

Despite the current financial status, the Pro League reports that 13 clubs already meet the 70 per cent criterion, with 19 clubs achieving a 90 per cent benchmark in 2023. The recent winter transfer window, which saw Antwerp and Gent making a profit of 67 million euros, is seen as a positive consequence of the stricter financial rules imposed.



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