Monday, August 12, 2013

Arsenal - Money Don't Matter 2 Night

Arsenal’s transfer strategy this summer has left the vast majority of their fans perplexed. While the seemingly interminable Luis Suarez saga has grabbed most of the attention, allied with the failure to secure Gonzalo Higuain when the deal appeared done and dusted, the stark reality is that Arsenal have not bought anybody yet, let alone the marquee signing that the supporters crave. Yes, they have acquired the services of French U20 international, Yaya Sanogo, but he arrived on a free transfer from Auxerre in the French second division..

At the same time, there have been many departures from the Emirates, including the likes of Gervinho, Mannone, Arshavin, Djourou, Coquelin, Santos and Chamakh plus a veritable plethora of youth team players. Although most of these individuals did not feature a great deal in the first team last year, leading to the unfortunate “deadwood” label, it’s still a fair amount of experience for the squad to lose with no replacements coming in.

In fairness, Arsenal’s excellent run in the latter stages of last season was pretty encouraging, though the final Champions League spot was only secured in a nerve-jangling final game of the season, when Arsenal beat Newcastle 1-0 away from home (to the apparent astonishment of Lord Sugar, who, quite brilliantly, imagined a non-existent equalising goal from the Toon Army).

"I wanna dance with Koscielny"

Although Arsenal performed creditably, the fact is that they never threatened a challenge in the major competitions and were dumped unceremoniously out of the domestic cups by lower league opposition. Therefore, the need to strengthen was obvious to all and sundry. A couple of injuries to key players would highlight the threadbare nature of the squad, which would then have to rely on youngsters, who may well be talented, but are untested in the heat of battle, pre-season friendlies not being the best indicator.

As INXS once said, it’s enough to mystify me, especially given the bullish comments from Ivan Gazidis in June. Ah, those heady days of (early) summer, when Arsenal’s chief executive boasted, “This year we are beginning to see something we have been planning for some time, which is the escalation in our financial firepower.” He continued, “We have a certain amount of money which we’ve held in reserve. We also have new revenue streams coming on board and all of these things mean we can do some things which would excite you.”

But specifically what could this mean? For example, could Arsenal now pay a £25 million transfer fees and wages of £200,000 for one world class player? Gazidis pulled no punches, “Of course we could do that. We could do more than that.”

And he’s not kidding. When you look at the club’s cash balances – there in black and white in the accounts for all to see – Arsenal’s spending capacity is evident.

As at the end of the 2011/12 season (the latest year when football clubs have published their accounts), Arsenal had an incredible £154 million of cash, which is significantly higher than any of their competitors with Manchester United the closest with £71 million (less than half the Gunners’ cash pile). An even more amazing statistic is that Arsenal have almost as much cash as the rest of the Premier League’s other 19 clubs combined (£181 million).

The story is little different on the continent, where Europe’s leading clubs also retain less cash than Arsenal, preferring to invest most of their available funds into the squad. As might be expected, the financially astute Bayern Munich had £95 million, while, perhaps more surprisingly, Real Madrid had almost as much with £94 million – though both these clubs still held around £60 million less than Arsenal. Barcelona had much less cash at £31 million, while clubs with smaller revenue generation, like Borussia Dortmund and Juventus, were barely in the black with £4 million and £1 million respectively.

Although the club has only really started beating its chest about its financial strength this year, it has been obvious for a while that the club could have spent big. As far as back as 2005, former chief executive Keith Edelman observed, “There are sufficient funds available to the manger for transfers”, before upping the ante a couple of years later, “We have got plenty of financial firepower to make the transfers Arsène wants to make. We had over £70 million of cash at the end of the year and if Arsène wants to spend that money, we will make it available.” Sound familiar?

Gazidis has been singing from the same song sheet as his predecessor ever since his arrival, claiming that “The resources are there. We’ve got a substantial amount of money that we can invest”, before his now infamous comment about the club keeping its “powder dry” for future player investment. Although he made this sound like some sort of grand plan from the club, its cunning appeared to be of the variety that would only have been recognisable to those who appreciated Baldrick’s schemes in Blackadder.

There has been a steady upward trend over the last few years in Arsenal’s cash balances, which have grown from £74 million in 2007 to £154 million in 2012. The figure of £123 million announced at the Interims in November 2012 was lower, but this merely reflects the seasonal nature of cash flows during the year, e.g. the May balance will always be high following the influx of money from season ticket renewals, while November is lower as annual expenses, notably wages, are paid. However, the rising trend can be seen by the fact that November 2012 figure was £8 million higher than the previous year.

However, this does highlight the fact that not all of Arsenal’s cash balance is available for transfers. It’s not quite that simple, due to many factors, including the need to pay those pesky expenses.

Of course, other money will also flow into the club during the season, such as TV distributions and merchandise sales, though not all of the reported revenue is necessarily converted into cash, e.g. all of the £55 million from Nike’s initial seven-year kit supply deal from 2004 to 2011 had been paid by July 2006 (to help with financing the construction of the Emirates Stadium).

The debt incurred for the new stadium continues to have an influence over Arsenal’s strategy. Although Gary Neville, amongst others, may believe that this is no longer an issue, it is clearly a factor with Arsenal’s gross debt standing at £253 million at the end of 2011/12, comprising long-term bonds that represent the “mortgage” on the stadium (£225 million) and the debentures held by supporters (£27 million). In fact, only Manchester United have a higher debt in the Premier League as a result of the Glazer family’s highly leveraged takeover.

Although this has come down significantly from the £411 million peak in 2008, it is still a heavy burden, requiring an annual payment of around £19 million, covering interest and repayment of the principal.

Despite the high interest charges, it is unlikely that Arsenal will pay off the outstanding debt early. The bonds mature between 2029 and 2031, but if the club were to repay them early, then they would have to pay off the present value of all the future cash flows, which is greater than the outstanding debt. In any case, the 2010 accounts clearly stated, “Further significant falls in debt are unlikely in the foreseeable future. The stadium finance bonds have a fixed repayment profile over the next 21 years and we currently expect to make repayments of debt in accordance with that profile.”

Importantly, as part of the bond agreements, Arsenal have to maintain a debt servicing reserve, which was £24 million in the Interims. In plain English, this portion of the cash balance is not available to spend on new players. Similarly, Arsenal also have to maintain a small reserve that is restricted to use for property development, but that is only £1 million.

Speaking of property development, Arsenal’s interims mentioned that they would be getting an additional £20 million of cash from Queensland Road, though this would be “receivable in instalments over a two year period.” There should also be more money from the two remaining “smaller projects” on Hornsey Road and Holloway Road, which could be worth another £20 million (estimate), depending on planning permission.

"We have a rather large German"

The amount of cash available is also influenced by outstanding transfer fees, though this is not a major issue for Arsenal at the moment: in the Interims Arsenal owed other clubs £31.6 million, but were in turn owed £31.4 million by other clubs, so this basically netted out.

In addition, the club has so-called contingent liabilities, where payments are made to a player’s former club based on certain conditions being met, e.g. number of first team appearances, trophies won, international caps, etc. These amounted to £7.8 million in the Interims, but are by no means certain to be paid – that’s why they are described as “contingent”.

Finally, at least in terms of transfer activity, we would have to add in the net funds from the last two windows, but again this is not a particularly large factor. This summer, Arsenal have raised around £10 million from the sales of Gervinho to Roma and Vito Mannone to Sunderland, but they paid out £8 million to Malaga in January for Nacho Monreal, producing a positive net impact of £2 million.

The new £150 million commercial deal with Emirates (shirt sponsorship and stadium naming rights) will have an impact, even though it does not commence until 2014, with talk of up to £30 million being frontloaded. Indeed, Gazidis explicitly stated, “We’ll have additional money this financial year, which will be available to invest in the summer.”

He added, “The deal is all about football, it’s all about giving us the resources to be able to invest in what we put on to the field for our fans.” To which, the response that comes to mind is “actions speak louder than words”.

Gazidis also said, “Our revenues will grow to put us into the top five revenue clubs in the world”, which was somewhat confusing, given that Arsenal have been fifth highest in the Deloitte Money League in four out of the last six years, ever since the move to the Emirates stadium. They were overtaken by Chelsea last season, mainly due to their fellow Londoners’ Champions League triumph, i.e. a direct result of success on the pitch.

In truth, Arsenal have benefited from higher revenues than the vast majority of other clubs for many years. Their £235 million turnover was the third highest in England in 2011/12 and is likely to rise to more than £300 million in two years time. The aforementioned Emirates sponsorship is more than £20 million higher than the current deal, as is the new Puma kit 2014 supply deal (widely reported, though not yet officially confirmed), while the astounding new Premier League 2013/14 TV deal should generate at least £30 million more for a top four club.

In addition, most transfers are funded by stage payments, so Arsenal would not necessarily need to find all the cash upfront – though other clubs, aware of the North Londoners’ resources, may insist on most being paid immediately. In that sense, Arsenal are victims of their own financial success.

Furthermore, Arsenal could always “speculate to accumulate” by taking on some additional short-term borrowing, which should be no problem, given the strength of the balance sheet and future cash flows. I’m not saying that this would be advisable (or even necessary), but it would be a possibility.

So, what is the magic figure Arsenal have as a transfer fund? Given all of the variables described above, it's safest to quote David Bowie, "It ain't easy", when trying to pin this down, but the oft-quoted £70 million is a reasonable estimate. If funds from property development and future commercial deals are also made available, then it could be as high as £100 million.

Arsenal have long been considered the poster child for financial success, consistently reporting large profits. Not only did they register the highest profit before tax (£37 million) in the Premier League in 2011/12, but they have also made an incredible £190 million of profits in the last five years. In fact, the last time that the club made a loss was a decade ago in 2002. This is virtually unparalleled in the cutthroat world of professional football.

However, the headline figures do not tell the whole story, as much of this excellent performance has been down to profits from player sales (e.g. £65 million in 2011/12) and property development (e.g. £13 million in 2010/11). Excluding those once-off factors would mean that Arsenal actually made losses in the last two years: £4 million in 2010/11 and an apparently worrying £31 million in 2011/12.

In fact, the operating profit from the football business has been steadily declining since 2009 with the club actually reporting an operating loss of £16 million last season.

So that explains Arsenal’s reluctance to splash the cash?

Not so fast, big boy, there’s another layer of complexity to add here, as the accounting profit includes non-cash items, such as player amortisation, depreciation and impairment of player values. Without wishing to get overly technical, we need to add these back to the operating profit and then make an adjustment for working capital movements to get the cash profit.

Once we do that, Arsenal’s cash flow from operating activities was an impressive £28 million in 2011/12, a figure that was only bettered by two clubs in the Premier League. The problem is that Arsenal have spent very little of this on improving their squad: that season the net expenditure on player purchases was just £2 million – with only four clubs spending less than the Gunners.

Most of the available funds instead went towards financing the Emirates Stadium: £13 interest and £6 million on debt repayments. A further £9 million was invested in fixed assets for enhancements to Club Level, more “Arsenalisation” of the stadium and new medical facilities and pitches at the London Colney training ground.

Since 2007 Arsenal have generated a very healthy £376 million operating cash flow. Although they had a small negative cash flow of £7 million in 2011/12, this followed many years of positive cash flow, e.g. 2010/11 £33 million, 2009/10 £28 million, 2008/09 £6 million, 2007/08 £19 million and 2006/07 £38 million.

However, it’s instructive how Arsenal have used this spare cash. They have spent £71 million on capital expenditure, £110 million on loan interest and £64 million on net debt repayments. Astonishingly, only 1% (one per cent) of the available cash flow has been spent in the transfer market. Although Arsenal have laid out a fair bit of cash on buying players in the last couple of seasons (over £100 million), this has been more than compensated by big money sales, leaving a negative net spend.

The other notable “use” of cash in that period is, er, nothing, as cash balances have risen by £118 million.

That begs the rather obvious question: why not spend the cash? There’s no one magic answer to this, but let’s take a look at the usual arguments:

(a) Impact of new signings on the wage bill

One point that people often raise when discussing the transfer fund is that it would also have to fund a new signing’s wages, so if the club bought a player for £25 million on a five-year contract at £100,000 a week, that would represent a commitment of £50 million. That is undoubtedly true, but it is a little disingenuous, as it ignores the fact that this could be at least partially offset by the departure of existing players. This is particularly true this summer, when Arsenal have offloaded so many players.

There is no doubt that the rising wage bill has been a cause for concern at Arsenal. Since 2009 wages have grown by 38% to £143 million, while revenue has only increased by 5% in the same period – though this is where the commercial department could be justifiably criticised for their failure to add secondary sponsors. The wage bill will have increased again in 2012/13 following revised contracts for the “Brit Pack” (Wilshere, Walcott, Gibbs, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey and Jenkinson) to over £150 million.

On the other hand, there will be plenty of room going forward, as the growth in revenue to £300 million implies a sustainable wage bill of £180 million (representing a safe 60% wages to turnover ratio). To place that into context, Chelsea’s current wage bill is £176 million, while Manchester United’s is £162 million, leaving only Manchester City out of sight at £202 million.

However, these clubs might be impacted by the new Premier League regulations, which have restricted the amount of money clubs can spend from the new TV deal on wages. Specifically, clubs whose total wage bill is more than £52 million will only be allowed to increase their wages by £4 million per season for the next three years. However this restriction only applies to the income from TV money, so Arsenal’s additional money from the new sponsorship deals can still be spent on wages.

(b) Cover a potential failure to qualify for the Champions League

Many have speculated that Arsenal may be holding cash back as a “rainy day” fund to cover a revenue shortfall from any failure to qualify for the Champions League. This has been a lucrative source of funds for Arsenal, who earned €31 million in 2012/13 from the TV distribution alone, but Gazidis himself has quashed this theory many times, most recently in June, “The Champions League qualifier in August won’t affect our plans. It’s never been an issue when we’ve discussed with players before and it doesn’t affect our planning.”

(c) Players not available

One of the most fundamental laws of economics is the one relating to supply and demand and that is relevant here. In other words, it does not matter if you have money, if there aren’t any quality players to buy. Gazidis referred to this in his June interview, “It doesn't only require our decision, it requires the player’s decision and other clubs' decisions, so there is a market that has to move not just dependant on one party, but dependant on a number of parties and many of those parties have been in a period of uncertainty.”

That’s perfectly valid, but has not prevented other clubs doing business, e.g. Manchester City have already bought Stevan Jovetic, Fernandinho, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo, while Spurs have acquired Paulinho, Roberto Soldado and Nacer Chadli.

Less justifiable was Wenger’s complaint that “Some clubs acted very early so the choices were reduced”, as if the transfer window were some kind of handicap race and those clubs had been given a head start.

"Cavani - the price is not right"

(d) Valuations are too high

Nobody wants to over-pay, but this is where Arsenal’s cash-rich position should work to their advantage. There’s no point in having more money than most other clubs if you don’t make it work for you. As an analogy, Arsenal may not have quite enough funds to buy in Harrods, but they could comfortably afford to shop in Waitrose, instead of wasting time haggling in Aldi.

Some have argued that Gazidis did Arsenal no favours with his “loadsamoney” speech, but, while this might have weakened the club’s negotiating stance, it is difficult to believe that executives at other clubs were not already aware of the Gunners’ financial position.

"Olivier's Army"

(e) Other clubs willing to spend more

Even if Arsenal are well positioned, some clubs still have more cash to spend. As Gazidis said, “I can’t compete with somebody who has an unlimited budget.” This echoed the thoughts of former chairman Peter Hill-Wood, who lamented, “At a certain level, we can’t compete.”

Fair enough, that’s certainly true, especially with the arrival of Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco on the scene – “more competition coming from France”, as Wenger drily observed. However, that still does not explain why the likes of Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham have outspent Arsenal in recent years.

(f) Implications for Financial Fair Play

Under FFFP, UEFA will look at aggregate losses, initially over two years for the first monitoring period in 2013/14 and then over three years, so Arsenal’s recent record of large profits would hold them in good stead, even if they were to temporarily slip into losses before the new revenue streams came on board. In addition, certain costs such as depreciation on fixed assets, stadium investment and youth development can be excluded from the break-even calculation, so this should not be a problem.

In fact, Arsenal hope that UEFA’s FFP regulations will reward their prudent approach, as these aim to force clubs to live within their means, thus restricting the ability of benefactor-funded clubs to spend big on players. Indeed, Gazidis stated that the advent of FFP meant that “football is moving powerfully in our direction.”

"You make me feel (mighty Monreal)"

(g) Lack of a proper transfer structure

As Monaco’s former chief executive, Tor-Kristian Karlsen, noted, when commenting on Manchester City and Tottenham’s transfer activity this summer: “I for one doubt it's a coincidence that the only two teams in the Premier League with genuine sporting directors (or technical directors or directors of football, if you like) are the ones who have appeared the most prepared, structured and with clear strategies in their work in the summer transfer market.”

If there is a modern, coherent transfer structure in place at Arsenal, then it seems remarkably well hidden. There may well be a great deal of activity behind the scenes, but the results speak for themselves.

(h) Will be used to pay dividends to the owner

Although the club’s owner, Stan Kroenke, has no record of taking dividends from his numerous sports clubs, there is still suspicion among some sections of the support that his game plan for Arsenal includes this possibility. When Kroenke was asked at the 2012 Annual General Meeting whether he intended to take dividends out of Arsenal, his response was hardly unequivocal, as he merely said that it was a decision for the board.

He added, “I have never said in any meeting that money wasn't available” and “our goal is to win trophies”, but the feeling remains that he is content with the status quo of fourth place in the Premier League, while topping the unofficial table for cash balances.

"Kroenke - the sound of silence"

(i) Makes it easier to sell the club

Having such a high cash balance obviously strengthens the balance sheet, but the club would arguably fetch a bigger price if it were successful. Moreover, most investors in football teams do not appear to be greatly interested in a financial return. Kroenke himself has said, “The reason I am involved in sport is to win. It's what it's all about. Everything else is a footnote.”

Indeed, if we look at this purely from the financial perspective, there is also the opportunity cost of not investing, as this reduces the chance of success on the pitch. As the presentation of the bond prospectus in 2006 put it, “the move to the Emirates Stadium should increase revenues and the ability to sustain a better playing squad – a virtuous circle.”

Gazidis echoed these thoughts in the summer, “you need the financial platform in order to create the sporting success, but you need the sporting success in order to supply the financial platform as well.”

This is why the bond structure includes a Transfer Proceeds Account, which had the objective of ensuring a high quality playing squad. This states that 70% of net player sales proceeds must be reinvested in players, but (crucially) also “other football assets or prepayment of debt”.

Regardless of how that account has been used, Arsenal’s cautious approach has cost them money. The TV distribution in the Premier League is relatively egalitarian with each place only worth an additional £0.8 million, but there is a significant upside in the Champions League, best seen in the 2011/12 season when Arsenal received €28 million for reaching the last 16, while Chelsea earned €60m for winning the competition.

In addition, a relative lack of success on the pitch cannot have helped Arsenal’s commercial team when they have tried to secure new deals. We already know that the new shirt sponsorship deal contains a number of clauses relating to performance, e.g. if Arsenal were to fail to qualify for the Champions League, the £150 million headline figure (over five years) would be somewhat less.

"Gazidis - brave boys keep their promises"

The other logical result of Arsenal’s many years of reported profits is that they are one of the few Premier League clubs that pay corporation tax: £4.6 million last season (the highest in the league). From a community aspect, this is a noble thing, but it is money that could have helped fund a new striker.

This is not a question of whether Arsenal have under-performed or not. Most neutral observers would agree with Gazidis’ assertion that “We have outperformed our spend, in virtually any metric you can look at, consistently for the last 15 years.” You can agree with that opinion, while still being unhappy that the club has not made the best use of its resources.

Arsenal are by no means a poor side, as they have shown in some encouraging pre-season displays, including a win against Manchester City, but they will find it difficult to maintain any sort of title challenge without strengthening. Obviously, there is still time to make important signings before the transfer window closes, but that’s not really the point, as the season will be well underway before Jim White embarrasses himself on Sky Sports News, including two Champions League qualifiers and the North London derby.

"Oh, Mickey, you're so fine"

No Arsenal supporter in his right mind would want the club to “do a Leeds”, but they are a considerable distance from that nightmare scenario. Equally, nobody should expect the promised big spending to guarantee an end to the recent trophy drought, but it would give the club the best opportunity to compete for honours, especially at a time when their main rivals have all gone through various degrees of management upheaval: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

At the very least, it would provide some substance to Gazidis’ statements that Arsenal are “extraordinarily ambitious” and “ready to compete with any club in the world”. As the well-known Arsenal fan, Spike Lee, once said, it’s time to “Do the right thing.”

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Championship Finances 2011/12 - Numbers

Back in April I posted a summary of the 2011/12 Championship finances on Twitter, but since then I have received a few requests to post them in a blog as a useful resource for fans of those clubs, so here we go.

I’m not going to provide detailed analysis at this stage, just the key figures from the accounts plus some graphs for comparisons against others.

All these figures have been taken from the clubs' published accounts, though I have made a couple of presentational adjustments in order to prepare like-for-like comparisons between clubs. In particular, not all clubs use the same revenue classification, so I have had to make estimates on the revenue split for Barnsley, Blackpool, Crystal Palace, Hull City and Peterborough United (though obviously leaving the total revenue unchanged).

The split should be reasonably accurate, given that the Championship TV distributions are the same for all clubs (excluding parachute payments), while match day revenue has been estimated based on factors like average attendances.

In such comparisons, there is also the question of which accounts to use, as some clubs have more than one set, e.g. accounts for the football club and a holding company. I have opted for the accounts that have been most widely publicised, i.e. on the club website or in the local press, but appreciate that this may cause some differences in the rankings.

Obviously, the 2011/12  figures are now a whole season out-of-date, but this is the last year in which clubs have published their accounts, so it is the latest available, if not the greatest.

Finally, neither Coventry City nor Portsmouth published accounts in 2011/12, due to their ongoing financial difficulties. May they enjoy better times in the future.

Despite all these caveats, I hope that the comparisons are still of some use.


An overview (in alphabetical order) of the club's profit and loss accounts.

Profit/(Loss) before Tax

Only six (out of 24) clubs made profits before tax in 2011/12: Birmingham City and Blackpool led the way with around £16 million, followed by Peterborough £4 million, Burnley £3 million, then Leeds United & Barnsley just breaking even.

Profit/(Loss) after Tax

A similar story for profit/losses after tax, though Middlesbrough benefited from £3 million of tax credits, while Blackpool's £4 million tax bill brought their net profit down to £12 million.


The highest revenue came from: West Ham £46 million, Birmingham City £39 million, Leeds United £31 million, Blackpool £29 million, Hull City £24 million and  Burnley £23 million. At the other end of the spectrum, two clubs generated less than £10 million: Barnsley and Doncaster Rovers.

Revenue (excluding parachute payments)

Of course, those total revenue figures are heavily influence by parachute payments received when clubs are relegated from the Premier League. If these were to be excluded, a slightly different picture emerges with Leeds United top of the pile. West Ham and Birmingham City  are still right up there, but are then followed by Leicester City, Southampton and Brighton.

This disparity will be even more evident from next season (2013/14), when the parachute payments will increase by 23% from £48 million to £59 million (over four years). That will be split as follows: £23 million in year one, £18 million in year two, then £9 million in years three and four.

Note – Reading’s “Other Revenue” refers to income from their hotel.

Match Day Revenue

Only three clubs earned more than £10 million revenue (West Ham £13.6 million, Southampton £11.8 million and Leeds  United £11.4 million).

Media Revenue

The clear importance of parachute payments is again highlighted here. Most clubs receive the same annual sums from the Football League pool (£2.5 million) and Premier League solidarity payment (£2.2 million). It should be noted that clubs receiving parachute payments do not also receive solidarity payments.

Commercial Revenue

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the highest commercial revenue came from traditional, long established clubs like Leeds United £14.4 million, West Ham £12.8 million, Birmingham City £8.8 million, though they were closely followed by the ambitious Brighton £8.6 million.

Profit on Player Sales

Only two clubs made more than £10 million from player sales: Birmingham City £21.7 million and Southampton £12.4 million. Following relegation, Birmingham “had to raise funds through the sale of players”, including Roger Johnson, Craig Gardner, Liam Ridgewell and Jean Beausejour. Indeed, without these player sales, the Blues would actually have reported a loss in 2011/12.

It is interesting how important profit from player sales can be to a club's business model with earnings from this activity worth more than 50% of a club's recurring revenue at four clubs: Birmingham, Southampton, Watford and Peterborough.


West Ham had by far the highest wage bill at £42 million, followed by Southampton £29 million, Leicester City £28 million, Reading £27 million, Birmingham City £25 million and Middlesbrough £22 million.

So the three promoted clubs in 2011/12 had the highest, second highest and fourth highest wage bills. Make of that what you will.

Wages to Turnover

Incredibly nine Championship clubs had a wages to turnover ratio above 100%: Bristol City 157%, Reading 135%, Leicester 130%, Southampton 125%, Ipswich 119%, Middlesbrough 119%, Nottingham Forest 119%, Doncaster Rovers 113% and Cardiff City 103%.

Given the massive financial prizes available on promotion to the Premier League, this willingness to push the boat out is understandable to a certain extent, but is also one of the reasons that Championship clubs have embraced Financial Fair Play

At the other extreme, fans of Blackpool (42%) and Leeds United (57%) might feel that their clubs could have shown a little more ambition. Peterborough's low 57% ratio reflects their sustainable business model.

Other Expenses

Excluding wages, the highest other expenses were reported by West Ham £26 million, Leicester City £19 million and Birmingham City £18 million, largely due to higher player amortisation (the annual charge for writing-off players’ transfer fees).

In terms of other expenses excluding player amortisation and depreciation, Leeds United and Brighton were easily the highest at £14 million, largely due to high stadium costs.


In comparison to their annual revenue, many clubs have significant debt, though it is invariably provided by the owners, as opposed to the bank: Brighton £120 million, Leicester £86 million, Nottingham Forest £85 million, West Ham £73 million, Ipswich Town £73 million and Cardiff City £72 million.

Net Interest Payable

The highest net interest payable recorded in the accounts were from Leicester City £5.3 million, Ipswich Town £3.5 million, Cardiff City £3.3 million, West Ham £3.2 million and Hull City £2.1 million. It should be noted that interest paid is not necessarily equal to the interest payable figure in the profit and loss account, as it is sometimes only added to debt (and so not actually paid), as was the case with Leicester, Ipswich and Cardiff.

Furthermore, the debt at some clubs is interest-free, e.g. Brighton.


For the sake of completeness, I have included average attendances, though most clubs do not formally publish these figures in their accounts. These figures have been taken from the excellent Soccerway site and show some pretty solid attendances in England's second tier with West Ham attracting nearly 31,000.

That concludes the voting of the Swiss jury for the financial overview of the Championship in the 2011/12 season. Numbers on their own are not that interesting (unless Soft Cell are singing about them) and are certainly not meant to suggest that one club is, in some way, “better” than another club.

That said, a club’s finances often go a long way to predicting how the team will fare on the pitch, so they’re not to be completely ignored either, especially with the Championship implementing its own version of financial fair play.
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