English football has never been as financially healthy as it is now. That’s the conclusion of the Sport Business Group at Deloitte in their latest Annual Review of Football Finance, released today.
The Premier League stands in particularly good stead but the picture is still rosy for English Football League clubs too — despite Aston Villa making headlines this week for running into trouble.
For the first time ever, no club in English football’s television rights-enriched top tier reported an operating loss in the 2016-17 season.
Here are three findings from the big four beancounter that illustrate the strong state of English football.
Reliant on TV revenues
In the 2016-17 season Premier League clubs reported a collective pre-tax profit of £534m, according to Deloitte. Only twice before had the division reported a pre-tax profit, the largest being £187m in the 2013-14 season. The biggest driver of that? A sizeable 25 per cent increase in revenues to £4.5bn and in particular the first year of a new £8bn TV deal that paid clubs between £95m and £150m each.
“We’ve gone from 60 per cent of clubs making an operational loss a decade ago to the end of the 2016-17 season where no club at all is reporting an operational loss,” Deloitte Sport Business Group partner Tim Bridge told City A.M. “It categorically could not have happened without the increase to TV incomes. That revenue growth has been absolutely critical in reaching this position.”
It has not just been the Premier League’s seemingly perennial popularity as a TV product behind its clubs’ financial health. Regulations such as Uefa’s Financial Fair Play and the Premier League’s short-term cost controls have prevented clubs from ploughing all their revenue into wages. This is demonstrated in the fact that the league’s wages-to-revenue ratio — 55 per cent — reached its lowest level since 1998.
“The foresight and ability of the Premier League and Uefa to really understand the importance that not all of the revenue flows straight through to the wage bill have also been critical,” said Bridge. “What used to happen is that you’d have revenue growth and wages would grow almost at the same rate. The regulation has stopped that.”
With more disposable income than ever before, Premier League clubs spent a record £395m on capital projects — an increase of £160m. This was primarily due to Tottenham’s spending on their new stadium project, which is due for completion later this year, but analysts at Deloitte believe it is indicative of a wider trend despite Chelsea recently shelving plans for a stadium development of their own.
“Clubs are spending more on those long-term projects — building their squad on the pitch but also improving their facilities off the pitch,” said Bridge. “Investing in new stadiums, training grounds — it’s a trend we’ve seen increase over the last few years and I think it will remain top of clubs’ agendas.”