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Fulham FC – the financial perspective of the club that tried to buy Arsenal

By Tony Attwood

Since everyone in the UK is still wondering who is going to run the country, and no one is reading blogs, I thought I would amuse myself by doing a preview of the game against Fulham by looking at their finances.

Fulham FC  is actually a network of companies which ultimately seem to be owned by  Mafco Holdings Limited, a Bermuda registered company, which is owned in turn by Mohamed Al Fayed and (I think) by members of his family.

Fulham FC as in Fulham FC (1987) Ltd, is but part of the operation, and has an income of around £53m of which £34m comes from broadcasting, and it has a wages bill of around £40 – around 74% of income.  Overall the club has made a loss each year for the past ten years, except one.

The last profit declared was 2003/04 when they made half a millioin pounds.  Interestingly the accounts that year declared that they employed 278 people – whereas they now employ almost three times as many.

And just to be clear, you can find on the internet some figures that suggest that Fulham made a profit in their last annual return, but these figures represent one of the various companies – the overall figure seems to be a loss year after year after year.

The debt is thought to be around £200m of which £174m is owed to Mr Al Fayed.  The fact that the club only pays £1.8m a year in interest suggests that Mr Al Fayed does not charge the club interest.  Mr Al Fayed is not Roman Abramovich but he is the third biggest benefactor of a club – behind Mr Abramovich and Sheikh Yermoney at Man Arab.

It can be argued that both Fulham and Chelsea are clubs into which owners put money which never comes back to them.  Or it can be argued that Fulham actually makes a profit, but we can’t see it because of the various companies involved.  Or it could be argued that the club is being prepared for sale.  Or that the club is going to move, and the valuable property that is Craven Cottage is going to be sold for houses.

These are the arguments, but most of them fall by the wayside.

The ground at which Fulham play is the ground which 100 years ago to the day, was the centre of Henry Norris’ plans, as he sought to buy the bankrupt Woolwich Arsenal FC, and merge Woolwich Arsenal with Fulham to form Fulham Arsenal.  (There’s more details in the “Making the Arsenal” book).

When this was turned down by the FA he tried in the summer of 1910 to move Woolwich Arsenal to Craven Cottage as a ground sharing operation, with the aim of Arsenal playing on the same saturday as Chelsea and thus denting Chelsea’s attendances.

In the end Norris agreed with the owners of Woolwich Arsenal FC not to move the club for two years after he bought it in June 1910, and in fact left the matters for three years, moving Arsenal to Highbury in 1913.

Fulham’s ground can’t be expanded because of that irritating little river that runs alongside it.  But building a new ground would be expensive and although the property as a housing development would be worth more than Highbury (views across the water and all that) it is hard to see that there would be a profit, unless Fulham FC were shut down.  (Arsenal’s profit remember comes from filling up the Ems, and thus earning far more on match days than before).

The fact that the wages bill is nearly three quarters of the costs at Fulham suggests that mixing up the figures in some Machiavellian manner is not what is happening, and that Fulham really does lose money each year.

The other problem for Fulham is that the ground does not always fill up, and the club offers discounts for some matches.  Maybe the Europa Final will help – but it is doubtful.  Fans are fickle and a run of poor results next season will see the ground less than full once again.   What they really need is  to be seen as an attractive location with lots of boxes for the posh blokes and their families.

As matters stand Fulham will not qualify for European matches after next season because of the benefactor rule.  What Mr Al Fayed could do is convert all his loans to stock which he owns – and that’s fine, but then when the club makes another loss and needs more money, that’s where it all falls apart.  Under the benefactor rules the rich owner can’t just keep adding money to the pot.  And it looks like they have to do.  Normally it is £7m to £10m a year.

So what will they do?

Actually I have no idea.

As for the game itself on Sunday, everyone’s injured as normal, so I suspect the team will be…

The Fabulous Fabianski Twins

Sagna, Silvestre, Campbell, Clichy (Eboue)

Diaby  (Eastmond)

Nasri, Eboue (Merida)

Arshavin, Van Persie,  Theo (Vela)

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Woolwich Arsenal FC

8 comments to Fulham FC – the financial perspective of the club that tried to buy Arsenal

  • Joe

    I think Mr Rednapp should be praised for his comments and attitude towards this weekends game. Especially with clubs being punished for fielding under strength teams being a recent event.

    In case you didn’t see it he says he is very happy with 4th spot and will not be complaining if Fulham should field an understrength team and lose at the weekend due to their up-coming european final.

    I think it’s very refreshing for anybody in football these days to not try and squeeze every last drop of advantage from any situation and I could see many other managers blow and absolute gasket, or at the very least try and turn it into some psychological dig at opponents, over such actions affecting their chances of a 3rd place and avoiding the CL qualification.

  • walter

    I think it is a big achievement for Fulham to get in to the final of the Europa league.
    If I am informed well it also could mean, if they win it, the first real cup they have ever won in their history?
    Well it would be nice just for those loyal fans to finally win something next week.
    Must say that I never felt much negative feelings against Fulham and like you said we have some history together even when it was 100 years ago.

    Looking forward to coming over again. And please if you see a foreigner driving through London on Sunday, hopefully on the right left side 😉 , just wave it could be me.
    But I don’t think I will wave back because I will be to concentrated on driving right. left that is.
    Oh well I think I will practice a bit over here tomorrow.

  • AaronGSi

    I don’t get it. You say that Fulham has an income of £53m per year, but doesn’t each premiership club get £50m per season alone as part of the Sky contract? Are you reporting that the other £3m they get, takes into account all their match day revenue for the season, plus all their sponsorship money, plus money from cup games etc?? And what about their share of the international TV rights that are negotiated by the Premier league? Isn’t that currently worth at least £25m per season (rising to £50m per season with the new deal)? The figures don’t seem to add up with what we know clubs receive from TV deals etc?? There must be some serious money being taken out of the club (much more than £1.8m per year interest) if they are still making a loss?
    It’s a good job they have a great manager in Roy Hodgson then I’d say, because he has done wonders for that club and deserves a lot of credit for their recent success.

  • RedGun

    I agree Aaron figures look suspect to me also.
    I would imagine though Al fayed could transfer funds to someone to pay for shirt deals or sponsorship of the stadium or find some way around trickling money through to the club.

  • As it says in the article, the figures I worked from showed £34 million from Sky. Two things might explain that – the only figures I can work from are the last avaialble Companies House returns which came out last year and relate to the year before, and the fact that I don’t think every club gets the same amount of money from broadcasting. Doesn’t it depend on how much you are on?

  • Kevin

    Re: division of TV money. The money given to the actual clubs rather than spent by the PL or given to other bodies is allocated in three pots: 50 per cent is shared equally between the 20 clubs (the Basic Award Fund), 25 per cent is spent on prize money depending on finishing position (the Merit Award Fund) and 25 per cent is used for “facility fees” depending on how many of a club’s games are televised live.

    The second pot is divided by 210 – 1st place gets 20/210, 2nd gets 19/210 etc, down to the bottom club getting 1/210.

  • walter

    Just read that Fayed is 77 years old. He won’t live forever I think so when he dies they could be in trouble. Not that I want him dead but when you are 77 the chance of being nearer to death than when being 17 is normal.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    Stop Press:

    In the first signs of the FA getting tough with recalcitrant owners, Mohammed al Fayed was told that if he didn’t sell Harrods to make Fulham balance the books, then the Qataris would need to buy an EPL club. And with Abu Dhabi, Dubai already spreading the oil in England, the chances of winning 2018 in December would be absolute zero. Which the FA would only tolerate if someone sponsored Wembley to the tune of £200m to pay off the debts.

    Commenting, Mr al Fayed said: ‘the only reason I sold it was because Mrs Beckham now sees her long term future in California, so my dreams of bedding her in store are gone. It has been a wonderful 20 year fantasy, but all good things must come to a £1.5bn end. But with Mr Hodgson at the helm at my Cottage Cheese outlet, I’m sure I’ll enjoy Wednesday night to help me get through this dark night of the soul!’

    With the new Tory-led administration about to get underway, Mr al Fayed feels it possible that he can also find a place for a new ground. Mr Mellor will be told firmly that Chelsea twits don’t get 10% commissions for greasing the wheels of the deal….