Howden’s inaugural Men’s European Football Injury Index

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Published

22 September 2021

Howden’s inaugural Men’s European Football Injury Index reveals the near €50 million cost of Covid-19 player absence

Clubs around Europe’s top 5 leagues hit by rising cost of player absence and earlier peak in injury occurrence due to Covid-19 disrupted season.

Howden, the international insurance broker, has today published its inaugural Men’s European Football Injury Index, which reveals for the first time the significant associated cost to clubs of players testing positive for Covid-19.

The research finds 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 Serie A clubs €19.6 million in Covid-19 absences alone.

The report unearths 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.

Key statistics from the report:

  • 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 €472.6 million, with the average cost of injuries per league at €94.5 million
  • The English Premier League experienced the most injuries at 938 in 2021/21and 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 totaling 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 (€34.2m); 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 €205.7 million in salary costs

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.

index diagram

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 $473.6 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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    Football game illustration

    Footnotes

    *460 individual players suffered a COVID related absence so 34 suffered multiple COVID related absences

    Caveats and assumptions

    • Player injury details are considered for three seasons (2018/2019, 2019/2020 and 2020/2021). We have used the squad for the 2020/2021 season as the base squad for our data collection.
    • Injury cost is calculated by multiplying the cost per day of a player by the number of days they were unavailable as a result of an injury.
    • Each season is defined as the period from September to May, with the exception of Ligue 1 where our data starts in August.
    • For monthly injury count, the injury has been counted in the month in which it occurred/started. For example, Player A was injured from January to February during one of the seasons, his injury is reported in the figures for January.
    • Any injury that kept a player out for more than a day has been considered.
    • Injury cost only includes the base salary of the injured player and not any costs associated with treatment/rehab.
    • Player salary data has been provided by Sporting Intelligence and this has been used to calculate injury cost.
    • Covid-19 injury figures are split into two columns. The first is the number of players who returned a positive test during the season – and the second relates to the total number of positive tests recorded.
    • Clubs and leagues adopted different testing regimes, so in some cases a player may have been tested twice for the same incident, and the figures should be seen in this light.
    • Injury data has been provided by XML Sports Feeds.