The Gunners now face a struggle to qualify for the Europa League next year, with Mikel Arteta’s side now sitting ninth in the Premier League.
It had been about an hour after fulltime on Thursday night when Josh Kroenke and Raul Sanllehi made their way from the Emirates having watched Arsenal wreck from the Europa League to Olympiacos.
Sanllehi, Arsenal’s head of football, and Josh, the son of owner Stan, did not mutter a word as they wandered beyond the assembled media with their heads bowed.
But they’ve been aware more than most just how expensive Arsenal’s shock defeat against the Greek league leaders might be moving forward.
Winning the Europa League was unquestionably the Gunners’ best chance at earning a place in next year’s Champions League and returning to Europe’s elite competition for the first time since 2017.
But that chance has gone and with Mikel Arteta’s side sitting ninth in the Premier League with only 11 games to go, there’s a very real likelihood that Arsenal could find themselves with no European football altogether next year for the first time since the 1995-96 campaign.
There’s an argument that not needing to worry about European matches might be a great thing as it might allow Arteta and his players to concentrate fully on national matters. There could be minimal fixture congestion and the squad would be well rested between matches – something equally Leicester City and Chelsea have profited from within their current title-winning seasons.
For Arteta, the free weeks would give him ample time to use his players and to drill his thoughts to them in the training ground, but whilst that could surely be a positive, the monetary expense of missing out on European soccer would be a massive blow to a club which on Friday announced their first operating loss since 2002 – publishing accounts for 2018-19 that revealed a loss after tax of #27.1 million ($34.8m).
The Europa League may not bring about the wealth that the Champions League does, but it nonetheless provides a much-needed earnings stream that could strengthen a squad that’s in dire need of a rebuild.
Failure to qualify for the Europa League from the 2020-21 effort wouldn’t only have a big effect on the transfer budget for the summer, but it would also observe the fiscal gap grows wider between Arsenal and the teams finishing in the Champions League spots.
Football fund expert Kieron O’Connor in the Swiss Ramble site said:”When Arsenal reached the final of the Europa League last year, their #34m ($44m) earnings were lower than the English agents in the Champions League: Liverpool #98m ($126m), Tottenham Hotspur #92m ($118m), Manchester City #82m ($105m) and Manchester United #82m ($105m).
“This is an essential point: and the direct effect on Arsenal’s earnings of the under-performance in Europe, there’s the fact that competitions also benefit. In actuality, most painfully, Tottenham’s earnings of 459m ($589m) has overtaken Arsenal’s earnings of 393m ($504m) in 2018-19.”
Arsenal’s shock exit to Olympiacos at the last-32 point on Thursday night means that year’s total earnings from the Europa League will be less than the #34m which was generated from last year’s run to the final.
Distribution in the Europa League is much the same as the Champions League, with all the 48 clubs involved with the group stages getting a participation fee of $2.75m (#2.4m/$3.1m), with every victory from the group stage earning $570,000 (#492,000/$632,000) and every draw earning $190,000 (#164,000/$211,000).
“As Arsenal won three matches and brought two, they received $2.1m (#1.8m/$2.3m) here,” O’Connor explained. “There’s also a share of the money saved from all of the draws in the group stage, worth $212,000 (#183,000/$235,000) for Arsenal.
“In the Europa League there is another bonus for teams that qualify for the knock-out phases, with the group winners earning $1m (#860,000/$1.1m) and runners-up #431,000. As Arsenal won their group, that is another #860,000. They also got another $500,000 (#431,000/$553,000) for reaching the last 32, so a total of $3.8m (#3.3m/$4.2m) in prize money.”
A new distribution method based on team performances in Europe over the last ten years has been introduced by UEFA last year and Arsenal shirt the Europa League ranks, something which earned them an additional $3.4m (#2.9m/$3.8m) in the UEFA coefficient this year.
The last element of the revenue is earned through the TV pool, which is based on performance in the last year’s national rivals and half on progress in this year’s Europa League.
“The latter element is partially determined by how far Manchester United and Wolves progress,” explained O’Connor. “My rough estimate is that Arsenal will get $11.8m (#10.2m/$13.1m) here.
“That would imply total earnings for Arsenal from this year’s Europa League of $21.7m (#19m/$24.4m).”
For a club of Arsenal’s prestige, whose business model and wage structure are based on Champions League revenues, that’s a minimal return. Should they fail to reach the Europa League at 2020-21, it is still #19m (#24m) more than they’ll bring in next year.
And missing out on qualifying for Europe’s second-tier contest would also have a negative effect on other revenue streams like sponsorship deals and matchday income.
Defeat on Thursday night means Arsenal face the possibility of having to pay out countless dollars to season ticket holders that, as part of the ticket, get seven house cup ties included.
But having now exited the Europa League and with just one more possible FA Cup home tie to come this year, the maximum fans will have the ability to get is six.
So rebates will need to be given to about 46,000 season ticket holders, with the club possibly having to refund more than #4.5m ($5.9m).
Supporters have the choice of redeeming the money or they could have the money they are owed deducted from the purchase price of the season ticket to the 2020-21 campaign.
“It should be stated that there’ll also be a decrease in the wage bill, because of reduced performance-related bonus payments,” noted O’Connor, highlighting one uncommon potential positive.
But overall, failure to secure European football would be a massive blow financially to get a club. It would severely limit the company that could be carried out in the summer window and could limit what they could provide concerning contract renewals.
And that could cause important problems, with discussions due to take place with talismanic striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, in addition to the likes of Alexandre Lacazette, Matteo Guendouzi and Bukayo Saka.
So, though the Europa League may not bring with it the wealth and the glamour of the Champions League, Arsenal aren’t able financially to just gleefully wave it goodbye for a year. The only realistic means of making up the shortfall that would come from missing from Europe is to sell at least one of their squad’s prized assets.
Josh Kroenke knows it and so does Sanllehi, which perhaps explains their long faces as they shuffled from the Emirates after Thursday night’s catastrophic defeat.