The Whites practically took up a weekly residence on Sky Sports during Marcelo Bielsa’s second-tier tenure, having put together a pair of thrilling promotion bids that captured the imagination of the huge audience the club already boasted.
Promotion and the prospect of Manchester United’s return to Elland Road, Bielsa going up against Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp and Frank Lampard – strap yourselves in for an exhausting week-long revisit of 2019’s hysteria – are likely to only pique broadcasters’ interest further. The season opener at Liverpool was always going to be on TV.
Leeds remain a big draw, even in amongst clubs who have been gracing and conquering Europe in the 16 years since the Whites exited the top flight.
In the Championship they were the big draw, something the EFL’s broadcast deal didn’t recognise. That will now change.
“The big hit will be in respect of broadcasting income,” said football finance lecturer Kieran Maguire, explaining where the financial might of the Premier League will really kick in for Leeds.
“Leeds made £9m in 2019 from broadcasting. How much they’ll earn from the Premier League will ultimately be linked to where they finish, but even with a bit of a discount for coronavirus, I’d expect that to be low nineties to £120m, realistically.
“They’re going to increase their broadcasting cut by around a factor of 10.
“Even if matches are behind closed doors, they are still going to be broadcast and Leeds will be a very attractive proposition. The way the Premier League TV deal works is that you’re effectively guaranteed 10 fixtures, paid for 10 and anything above that is another extra million pounds per match, regardless of whether you’re home or away. Contrast that with what they had in the Championship, when Leeds were potentially getting an extra £10k for an away match if it was broadcast, and they were the big fish.”
Maguire has often highlighted Andrea Radrizzani’s success in monetising Leeds United’s history and super-charging the club’s revenue streams.
The Premier League will allow the Italian to grow the club’s earning potential even more aggressively.
“I think they’re clued up as to how they can leverage the size and history of the club,” said Maguire.
“They’ve got the deal with Adidas, shirts will fly off their shelves, fans will be desperate for it and they have an overseas fanbase which is larger than at least half the clubs already in the Premier League. Those fans will be invested.
“On the back of that, it’ll help them with the front of shirt sponsorship, shirt sleeve sponsorship and pitch perimetre advertising.
“Broadcasters are going to like them, commercial partners are going to like them, I think they certainly have opportunities to grow their commercial income.”
But to make money in the Premier League you have to spend money.
Leeds, who have promotion bonuses and new players to pay for, also have work to do to bring Elland Road up to broadcast spec, so the Premier League audience can watch Bielsaball in the most glorious technicolour.
“You have to upgrade your floodlights so they’re HD ready, there will be changes in terms of the perimetre advertising, the press box, there are significant costs between £5m and £10m,” explained Maguire.
“I was speaking to the chief executive of a club who was promoted a couple of years ago and it was sizeable sums to make the ground Premier League ready in terms of infrastructure.
That money will go. In their accounts for last year, they did have a figure for if they were promoted, that would cost them just shy of £20m in promotion bonuses.”
Yet the television set is the closest Leeds fans will get to their team for the the initial stages of the season at least, as the country continues to grapple with a virus.
Not all the streets are paved with gold in the 2020/21 Premier League. Leeds’ matchday income was never going to be their biggest revenue stream this season but they will still feel its loss.
“Radrizzani is absolutely right, it will hit Leeds,” said Maguire.
“If they can’t sell tickets for matches it’s going to cost them three quarters of a million pounds if not more per match. I didn’t expect them to put ticket prices up because they’re already fairly steep at Leeds but the hospitality packages at Elland Road, if you are hosting Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United compared to, no disrespect, Wigan, Reading, QPR, you can effectively name your own price within reason. Potentially they could be losing the thick end of a million pounds per match behind closed doors.”
The financial forecast, however, remains largely sunny.
And the good news doesn’t stop at LS11. There is a financial upside for the city and the region, particularly if Leeds can stick around in the top flight long enough to see away supporters return to stadiums.
“It’s not just the whole club that benefits, it’s the whole city,” said Maguire.
“I know that Brighton had an economic impact report after 18 months in the Premier League and I know Swansea did this as well and in terms of increasing the profile, having Leeds back in the Premier League is worth a lot of money to the city and the surrounding area.
“The chamber of commerce can leverage things of that nature.” l