Managing Your Cash Flow

Lower-league football clubs are stealing the investor spotlight away from Premier counterparts

4 min read

12 August 2016

Investors have always been attracted to Premier League football clubs in part due to the prestige of owning one, but some of the UK’s less glamorous teams have started stealing the spotlight – and here’s why.

It’s been said that in 2016/17 each Premier League club is guaranteed a minimum of £170m over three years even if they rank at the bottom. BDO’s annual survey of football club FDs even revealed that three-quarters of clubs are in a healthy financial position, with 88 per cent expecting to make a profit in 2016/17.

So why are more investors keeping their eyes on lower-league clubs? Some 40 per cent have been approached by equity investors in the last 12 months despite Championship clubs claiming finances are a cause for grave concern.

BDO explained: “A staggering 73 per cent of clubs in League Two had also been approached by potential equity investors. This suggests a more medium to long term strategy from investors, recognising potential for future value growth – something that may not be available in EPL clubs where the impact of enhanced broadcasting rights may already be factored into valuations. In addition, investor interest is coming from across the globe as much as from domestic fans and funds.

“In Scotland, low broadcasting rights mean that Scottish Premier League clubs are facing many financial challenges; they are failing to attract significant investor interest and rely more heavily on their loyal fan bases and profits from player activity.”

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But that’s far from the only reason. Take League Two club Accrington Stanley, for example. What More UK’s founder, Andy Holt, took over the club’s debt of almost £480,000 – before later investing more – for one particular reason: because it was good for the community.

In a BBC Sport article it was revealed that Accrington Stanley itself had approached Holt, who despite being a fan wanted nothing to do with the club on a business level.

“I went to the first match after becoming a sponsor, which was a friendly against Burnley and we were 3-0 up after about ten minutes,” he said. “But the club’s bar ran out of beer. I said ‘this is madness’, but they hadn’t paid the bills. They couldn’t even pay wages. There was no doubt that backing would be costly and there’s no doubt I’ll be unlikely to see it ever again, but that doesn’t matter.

“You get it back in other ways. We’ve got businesses in the community and the community have been good to us. The council’s been good to us, we use the roads more than anyone else. My aim is that in 50 years’ time, Accrington Stanley would’ve helped umpteen thousands of kids and adults. It’s an old Lancashire mill town, and they lack investment.

“What I’m not trying to say is that football’s a good business investment. It’s about protecting community assets. As far as I’m concerned, Accrington Stanley is a beacon of hope for the town.”

Elsewhere, while previous “shaming lists” have mentioned the likes of Monsoon, the government has released its biggest list yet – which includes branches from Papa Johns and Subway, interior designer Voyage, luxury boutique hotel The Black Swan, Omega Protein, high-end restaurant San Lorenzo and two UK football clubs.