Howden reveals near €50m cost of Covid-19 footballer absence

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Insurance broker Howden has revealed that football clubs in Europe’s top five men’s leagues suffered rising costs from player absences and earlier peaks in injury occurrence due to Covid-19 last season.

Howden published its inaugural Men’s European Football Injury Index last week and revealed the significant associated cost to clubs of players testing positive for Covid-19.

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

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. As one of the European countries hit hardest by the pandemic, 37% of players in Serie A tested positive for the virus during the 2020/2021 season, costing €19.6 million in Covid-19 absences alone.

The index unearthed 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, according to Howden.

Key statistics from the index include: 

  • 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 totalled €472.6 million, with the average cost of injuries per league at €94.5 million 
  • The English Premier League experienced the most injuries at 938 in 2021/21 and the highest injury cost at €155.9 million, behind second placed La Liga on €84.5 million 
  • Player position influences injury type and frequency, with defenders totalling the highest number, suffering 1,422 in all, with midfielders recording the highest injury costs at €165.6 million 
  • The clubs with the highest injury costs in Europe were Paris Saint Germain (€34.2 million), Real Madrid (€28 million), and Liverpool (€17.9 million) 
  • Players in the 26 to 30 age bracket recorded the most injuries at 1,551, and also the highest injury costs, totalling €205.7 million in salary costs

Howden said seasonality has also seen a distinct trend: 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).

James Burrows, director of sport and entertainment at 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 five major European leagues costing clubs a total of $473.6 million, 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.”

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Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk