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The pandemic calms down the market and widens the gaps

CIES Football Observatory Report 11 November 2020


The 59th edition of the CIES Football Observatory Monthly Report presents the findings of the annual census on the demographic characteristics of players from 31 European male top divisions.

For 2020, the sample is composed of 12,088 footballers.

The study reveals that the pandemic slowed the transfer market and strengthened the gaps in the profile of players according to the sporting and economic level of clubs.

After the COVID-19, the part of debutant players in squads has increased by 1.3% compared to the average for the 2009-2019 period.

The growth has been greater in the least competitive leagues (+1.9%) than in the five major European championships (+0.2%).

Following the pandemic, teams from the least successful leagues have given a first chance to three times more debutant players than clubs from the best championships, compared to only twice more during the previous decade.

After having fallen progressively between 2009 and 2018, the percentage of club-trained players has increased for the second year running (17.8%).

This increase is exclusively related to the greater recourse to footballers from their youth academy by clubs in the least performing leagues (+2.3%). Indeed, within the three top championship groups, the percentage of club-trained footballers has actually diminished (between -0.2% and -0.7%).

The pandemic has also slowed the mobility of players. Squad stabilisation has occurred in all league categories.

In 2020, the percentage of footballers recruited during the year has dropped by 2.5% in comparison to 2019. The part of new recruits has fallen to a level not seen since 2012 (40.7%). Confronted with significant revenue shortfalls, most clubs have reduced their activity on the transfer market.

COVID-19 has also reversed the trend when it comes to the international mobility of players. While the percentage of expatriates has grown steadily between 2009 and 2019, it has gone down after the pandemic (41.2%, -0.6%).

In this case too, the biggest decrease was recorded for the minor championships (-2.4%), while a slight increase has been observed in the big-5 European leagues (+0.2%).

These findings show that the pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities between clubs throughout Europe. Smaller teams had to lower their ambitions even more than bigger ones. For many of the former, the immediate future presents itself more than ever as a fight for survival.

In this extremely tense context, the clubs having built up solid training sectors will pull through better than the others. This holds true from both a sporting and a financial perspective.

Click here to access the study by interactively selecting the leagues for which you wish to follow the evolutions on the different indicators analysed.

About the CIES Football Observatory

The CIES Football Observatory is a research group within the International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES). Created in 2005 by Dr. Raffaele Poli and Dr. Loïc Ravenel, the CIES Football Observatory currently comprises a staff of four full-time permanent researchers who specialise in the statistical analysis of football. Click here for more information.

About the CIES

The International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) is an independent study centre located in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. It was created in 1995 as a joint venture between the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the University of Neuchâtel, the City and State of Neuchatel. Click here for more information. Click here for more information.

CIES – Centre International d’Étude du Sport
Avenue DuPeyrou 1, 2000 Neuchâtel
Phone +41 32 718 39 00 - Fax +41 32 718 39 01

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