Soccer-Europe's big five leagues generate 19.6 billion euros in season post-COVID

Premier League - Arsenal v Brighton & Hove Albion

(Reuters) - Europe's soccer market grew by 16% in the 2022-23 season to 35.3 billion euros ($37.86 billion) due to the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions as fans returned to stadiums and the 2022 World Cup, Deloitte said in a study published on Tuesday.

In its Annual Review of Football Finance, Deloitte said the top five leagues -- Premier League, Bundesliga, LaLiga, Serie A and Ligue 1 -- generated 19.6 billion euros in revenue, an increase of 14%.

They also reported an aggregate operating profit (500 million euros) for the first time since 2018-19, the last season before COVID restrictions affected leagues across the continent.

"The 2022 FIFA World Cup, the lifting of final COVID-19 restrictions and the fervour of fans engaging with football has led to strong growth in the European football market in 2022-23," Tim Bridge, lead partner in Deloitte's Sports Business Group, said.

Premier League clubs also saw their revenue surpass six billion pounds ($7.60 billion) for the first time thanks to a 11% growth, with the average revenue exceeding 300 million pounds.

The report said the average wages/revenue ratio fell across all league as the increase in aggregate revenue exceeded the clubs' increased wage costs.

Meanwhile, clubs in England's second-tier Championship saw their revenues grow 10% to 749 million pounds as they exceeded wage costs (706 million pounds) for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign.

However, no Championship club generated an operating profit (before player trading) as the league registered operating losses of 316 million pounds.

Championship clubs have spent millions in trying to move up to the Premier League, where promotion leads to a windfall of at least 140 million pounds, rising to over 300 million pounds if they avoid relegation.

"The Football League may have seen an uptick in revenues in 2022-23, but clubs across the EFL are still battling to manage cash requirements," Bridge added.

"Many clubs are propped up by owner funding as they aspire to promotion, but exiting the league at the wrong end exposes a club to instability.

"This makes a strategy for long-term stability critical, underpinned by appropriate support provided by the governing bodies."

League One and League Two also reported an increase in revenue in 2022-23 as 19.8 million cumulative fans attended matches across the three lower leagues -- the largest aggregate figure in 69 seasons.

($1 = 0.9323 euros)($1 = 0.7899 pounds)

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)