Pandemic inflicts off-pitch losses on soccer giants Man Utd, Juventus

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Europa League - Round of 32 Second Leg - Manchester United v Real Sociedad - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - February 25, 2021 General view of a banner in the stands before the match REUTERS/Phil Noble

(Reuters) -England's Manchester United and Italy's Juventus, Cristiano Ronaldo's current and former teams, both suffered hefty financial losses for 2020-21 as the coronavirus crisis drained European soccer stadiums of fans.

While Executive Vice Chairman Ed Woodward expressed confidence in United's recovery as Old Trafford hosts capacity crowds for the first time in almost 18 months, Juventus said it would also end its 2021-22 financial year, which will still be heavily affected by the pandemic, with a "significant loss".

Woodward, who in April said he will step down at the end of the year, reflected on the difficult environment in which even the biggest clubs operate.

"While we are confident in our relative strength, it remains clear that football as a whole faces major financial challenges caused by years of material inflation in wages and transfer fees, exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic," he said on a conference call with analysts and investors.

United expects its wages to go up 20% this year after it bolstered the squad further by signing French World Cup winner Raphael Varane and England winger Jadon Sancho.

The Manchester club, which signed five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo from Italy's Juventus last month, posted a net loss for the year ended June 30 of 92.2 million pounds ($127 million), compared with a loss of 23.2 million pounds a year ago. The figure was inflated by a one-off tax hit.

Ronaldo, 36, made an immediate impact on his Premier League return with two goals against Newcastle United.

Meanwhile, Juventus saw its annual loss more than double to a record 209.9 million euros in a season when the team relinquished its grip on the Serie A title.

United, owned by the America-based Glazer family, and Juventus both attracted heavy criticism from fans and regulators for their involvement in the now-failed breakaway European Super League project earlier this year.

Shares in United, which did not provide full-year financial guidance due to COVID-19 uncertainty, reversed pre-market losses to trade up 1.5% on the New York Stock Exchange.

($1 = 0.7248 pounds)

(Reporting by Chris Peters and Aby Jose Koilparambil in Bengaluru, Simon Evans in London and Elvira Pollina in Milan; Editing by Keith Weir, Toby Davis and Alexander Smith)

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