Raising Finance

Lack of profit belies English football finance directors' "very healthy" opinion

3 min read

17 August 2015

Former editor

The The Annual Survey of Football Finance Directors by professional services firm BDO has revealed the majority of football teams do not expect to be in the black after player trading and amortisation is taking into account.

The TV rights values and wage control restrictions found in the English Premier League means some 92 per cent of club finance directors in the league predict profit. However, moving down though those in charge of the money at Football League Championships reveals that only 12 per cent share the same thought.

When all responses are taken into account, 27 per cent expect to make a profit after player trading and amortisation in the next accounting period – down from 40 per cent a year earlier.

Some 45 per cent of survey personnel believe their club’s financial position is “very healthy” (up from 33 per cent in 2014), while 23 per cent of Premier League teams are considering a full or partial exit in the next year to year and a half.

Addressing the concerns of football finance directors, the top three responses were loss of income due to relegation, falling match attendances and inflexible players’ salaries.

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The high-profile nature of football means two thirds of clubs believe that the level of public interest in the team leads each to manage the club with “heightened corporate governance” when compared to similar-sized companies outside of the football space.

A total of 60 interviews were completed with finance directors of clubs in the top four division in England, and top division in Scotland. The survey brought together the thoughts of 65 per cent of the Premier League (13 teams) and 66 per cent of the Football League Championship (16 teams).

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Rather worryingly, two-thirds of clubs are dependent on the principal shareholder to finance losses, with the biggest change over last year registered amongst Premier League clubs.

On the Financial Fair Play (FFP) front, only 28 per cent would invest more into the club in the absence of such restrictions. A total of 42 per cent believe the amount each are allowed to invest in sufficient, while three out of ten stated there was no more money to invest as it was.

Over half (53 per cent) indicated FFP restrictions are being “appropriately enforced”. Ian Clayden, partner for professional sports at BDO, said: “Most clubs believe that cost control and sustainability measures (often referred to generally as FFP) are meeting their principal objectives of promoting sustainability, and the results that we have support this.

“However, in the context of augmented Premier League TV rights, one has to question whether Football League limits need to be further relaxed to take into account the ever widening financial gap between the Premier League and the Football Leagues.”