Turkish football’s Big Four – Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Trabzonspor – find themselves in an astronomical debt spiral, reaching nearly TL 13.99 billion ($1.89 billion).
The four clubs recently announced their latest debt figures on the public disclosure platform (KAP). The figure was just TL 2.06 billion back in 2012.
The drop in the dollar-Turkish Lira exchange rate, which was at 1.8 in 2012 but currently stands at 7.3, only exacerbated the clubs’ debt situation. Their debts in the last eight years have grown by a whopping 579%.
Fenerbahçe tops the list with TL 5.2 billion, followed by Beşiktaş with TL 3.9 billion. Galatasaray has racked up TL 3.6 billion in debts while Trabzonspor from the Black Sea accumulated debts of up to TL 1.2 billion.
Last week, Turkish Football Federation (TFF) chief Nihat Özdemir said the debt was an accumulation of several years, but the coronavirus pandemic and the foreign currency exchange rate have made the situation worse.
The cumulative debt of the clubs has crossed the budgets of several Turkish ministries in 2021.
All ministries, including trade, interior, foreign, industry and technology announced budgets in Parliament near the end of 2020. The Technology Ministry received a TL 11.91 billion budget, followed by the Interior Ministry’s TL 10.66 billion and the Trade Ministry’s TL 6.58 billion. The Tourism Ministry was allocated TL 6.01 billion.
In comparison, the Foreign Ministry has TL 5.78 billion for 2021 and the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry gets TL 3.99 billion.
The Environment Ministry, on the other hand, has a budget of TL 3.37 billion.
Turkey is currently working on new legislation that will make senior football executives personally responsible for borrowings that exceed the clubs' revenue during their term.
The UEFA Champions League winners receive a cash prize of nearly 120 million euros ($145.7 million) every season, making the Big Four's combined debt equal to winning at least 13 championships.
Turkey's largest indoor sports hall, Sinan Erdem Sports Center in Istanbul, has a capacity of 22,500 spectators. It cost $47 million to build, which means at least 40 such sports halls could be built with the massive debt incurred by the Big Four.
The venue was built for the 2010 FIBA World Championship when Turkey hosted the tournament.
Two of the Big Four, Fenerbahçe and Trabzonspor, did not even qualify for European tournaments in four of the last 10 seasons.
Galatasaray and Beşiktaş, on the other hand, missed European challenges in two seasons.
During this period, Galatasaray and Trabzonspor were banned by UEFA for a year each for breaching its Financial Fair Play Regulations (FFP).
UEFA also barred Fenerbahçe from the Champions League for two seasons because of a match-fixing investigation.
Meanwhile, Beşiktaş did not qualify for the European Cups for two seasons after also failing to meet financial criteria and then on match-fixing charges.
In the 2012-2013 season, Fenerbahçe reached the UEFA Europa League semifinals but was eliminated by Portugal's Benfica.
In the same season, Galatasaray played in the Champions League quarterfinals, only to be knocked out of the tournament by Spanish powerhouse Real Madrid.
Beşiktaş reached the Europa League last eight in the 2016-2017 season but lost to France's Olympique Lyon on penalties.
Trabzonspor was unable to go past Round 32 in the Europa League.
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