Howden’s new Football Injury Index reveals €50m cost of player absence due to Covid-19

Football clubs in Europe have been hit hard by the rising cost of player absence and an earlier peak in injury occurrence, according to Howden’s inaugural Men’s European Football Injury Index.

There were 494 cases of Covid-19 reported across Europe’s top five leagues last season, according to the broker, resulting in players being forced to spend time off the pitch and missing a total of 7,068 days at a cost of €48.2m.

Across all leagues, players missed an average of 14.44 days every time they tested positive for the virus. Italy’s top division witnessed the highest incidence of cases – some 37% of players in Serie A tested positive for the virus during the 2020/2021 season, costing Serie A clubs €19.6m in Covid-19 absences alone.

The report reveals the rising injury numbers, severity and cost for the 2020/2021 season across Europe’s top five men’s leagues (English Premier League, the Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga and Ligue 1) leading to a material financial impact to clubs when players were absent from matches through illness and injury – a statistic that Covid-19 has served to compound.

Seasonality has also seen a distinct trend this year: injuries peaked earlier during the 2020/2021 season – in October and November rather than in December and January. It is possible that this trend can be attributed to a short pre-season and late start to the 2020/2021 season (with the exception of Ligue 1).

A key question the report asks is whether the increasing cost of player absence that the wealthier clubs face was a possible contributory factor behind the attempted ‘Super League’ breakaway earlier this year. Statistics show that clubs involved in the proposed breakaway suffered disproportionately poorly compared to the others in terms of the cost of player absence. The report suggests that this is not only due to higher salaries but also higher injury numbers.

Conducted by Howden’s Global Sport & Entertainment Practice’s data and analytics team, the research has been compiled using injury cost and salary figures for the five major premier league clubs with the data segmented by injury type, date of injury, player salary, the age of the player and the position in which the footballer plays.

James Burrows, divisional director, Sport & Entertainment, Howden said: “This report has quantified for the first time the significant monetary impact that Covid-19 has had on the major football clubs in Europe last season. The pandemic has not only contributed to a 14% rise in injuries across the 5 major European leagues costing clubs a total of $473.6m, but it has resulted in injury numbers peaking earlier in the season.

“As the operating and playing environments for clubs and players alike become increasingly challenging, we’re focused on helping clubs and their players mitigate the increasing frequency and cost of injuries by using data and analytics to provide risk management advice and innovative insurance products.”

Men’s European Football Injury Index (Source: Howden)

Injuries across Europe’s big five leagues were up 13.8% in the 2020/2021 season to 3,988 (3,504 in 2019/2020);

Total injury cost to clubs in the top five leagues totaled €472.6m, with the average cost of injuries per league at €94.5m

The English Premier League experienced the most injuries at 938 in 2021/21and the highest injury cost at €155.9m, behind second placed La Liga on €84.5m

Player position influences injury type and frequency, with defenders totaling the highest number, suffering 1,422 in all, with midfielders recording the highest injury costs at €165.6m

The clubs with the highest injury costs in Europe were: Paris Saint Germain (€34.2m); Real Madrid (€28m) and Liverpool (€17.9m)

Players in the 26-30 age bracket recorded the most injuries at 1,551 and also the highest injury costs totaling €205.7m in salary costs

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