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Behind the Arsenal figures… what does it all mean?

Read between the lines.

By Terence McGovern

So the annual financial figures are in and all is rosy in the garden. It is notable however that many Arsenal fans are not exactly overcome with enthusiasm about it and so we should ask ourselves, what we want from these figures and really at the end of it all what are they going to do for us the supporters.

Let’s break it down and keep it simple. I would point out that I might be a few quid or a year out here or there and if you wish to be pedantic about it and jump on a slight inaccuracy, please don’t bother. My articles are in the main authored from a philosophical point of view and thus a mil/year or so out is irrelevant.

So we have made a bundle from the property sales and with 60 units or so left to sell (20 or so being sold since the closing of the last set of accounts) we will have more profit to add from the remaining sales. We have over £125 million in the bank although about £40 million of that is held both as a guarantee towards our stadium financing for the next 21 years and also an allotment towards new developments on our remaining 3 sites. Still that does leave us £85 million or so which fans of most clubs would kill for but a large segment of our support is unenthusiastic about.

In a sense, it is understandable for a certain type of fan to be thinking that if we have it then why are we not spending it? They are thinking that we could spend £20 million on a goalkeeper and the world would be a better place etc. It is unfortunate that we have fans that will only be appeased be the “idea” of spending large sums regardless of whether they are needed or not. They want the temporary addictive lift it brings and the questionable bragging rights that anybody can claim at the start of a new season.

Now I could point out that the year we went unbeaten we spent less than £1 million in the market but that was spent on a keeper and not wanting the debate to get skewed I will avoid the keeper issue like the plague.

Here is my take on what this profitability gives to our club and to us the supporters.

For a start we can bask in the warm glow of financial security whilst we watch Liverpool go down in flames. We can also look at the distant horizon and detect a slight plume of smoke over Manchester. If you are close enough, please blow on it . The way that Arsenal has operated and carefully guarded our money means that it would take years and years of mismanagement(highly unlikely unless the lunatics take over the asylum) for our fortunes to slide to the detrimental state of these two historic giants of the game. Pretty soon history may be all their fans have.

The club has spent some money although not wildly, but at first glance seem to have spent cleverly. Koscielny was our largest outlay somewhere in the £8 million range and most were initially uninspired by the purchase. However, it would take the most stubborn malcontented fan to deny that he has had some outstanding performances especially given he was literally thrown in at the deep end.

Squillaci is still an unknown quantity but his performances so far seem assured and calm because his positioning  has been meticulously observed. Then we come to Chamakh who was on a free but as we know from Sol’s days these ‘free’ players have a large loyalty payment paid each year on top of their impressive salaries. It would not be a surprise if Chamakh is on similar money to Cesc. There was a time when we were accused of not paying comparable wages to other clubs but that day has long passed.

This is an expensive business.

The club has, over the last year, extended a raft of player contracts with a mind to securing the long term stability of the team. That is to say that if they continue playing together, they will improve as a team without constant chopping and changing. This of course has been an expensive process also.

There is no doubt that should the need arise or be perceived by the manager in January, then the club will spend to solve that need. Arshavin and Reyes are examples of this. We are suffering from a lot of injuries as usual and although the wonderful victory at WHL against the Totts showed that more than any other club in the EPL we have strength in depth.  If it gets any worse we may need to increase the squad. Tony has already made the point that due to several players breaching the “over 21” barrier we may have to shuffle a few in and out anyway. Either way the cash is there if we need it.

Where the cash will be used and must be used is to remedy an obvious shortfall in the Arsenal business model. Our commercial revenue is severely lagging behind that of our EPL peers and also our European counterparts. The reason for this is simple. We needed money to get the Emirates stadium project off the ground and Emirates provided a £100 million deal but it was front loaded and as we are in the second half of the 15 year deal, the income from it is now declining year by year so it is almost negligible.

Similarly our shirt deal with Nike was struck from a poor bargaining position and renewed based on a clause in the original deal so whilst better than the Emirates deal it is not as good as that of say Liverpool or Man Utd. These deals had to be done and we will simply have to deal with them until 2004 and 2017 respectively.

That all being said we have a new commercial operations executive, Tom Fox who has worked with the NBA and Nike specifically in Asia. This appointment is a declaration of intent. The Far East is where the market expansion potential is and this guy knows the territory. Arsenal will be expanding their retail operations in India, and in China and other parts of the Far East. We will be increasing our brand exposure through football academies and other development projects all over the world including throughout Africa. On top of that there is a huge drive to find media and internet partners particularly examining the sale of high definition internet live streams of games.  (See the link at the end of this article for the Untold Arsenal piece on Arsenal’s drive to HD Broadband).

How that will stack up long term versus the TV deals and conflicts of interest is anyone’s guess but I would venture that the first to establish a viable internet following globally, will steal a serious march on the opposition.

It is worth noting that I recently watched a reserves game courtesy of an official Man city stream that I would probably pay for if it was available from my own club so the powers that be take note. One camera with an internet link could yield some extra cash.

All this development takes money and promoting a global brand against other global brands that have billions at their disposal is no easy task but as long as the football is superb there will be a market for it and long term, the rewards will be great. It is worth noting that Sky couldn’t wait to tie the EPL down for a new bigger deal that included overseas broadcasting before somebody else got in on the action or the clubs took matters into their own hands individually or collectively. The market there is potentially worth several times what it is worth here so watch that space over the next 5-10 years.

It is crucial that the club gets in on the action in this part of the world as quickly as possible because doing so will catch us up with our competitor in commercial income here.

Now there are those who will say that all this is doing is lining the pockets of the sharaeholders. Well yes and no.

Yes the shareholders will become richer via the increased value of their shareholding.

You have only to look at what David Dein paid for his shares and the amount that he sold out to Alisher Usamov for to see the vast sums that can be made this way.

No the shareholders cannot touch any of this money. It is there as a resources for use by the club for the club. Arsenal shareholders do not receive a dividend nor do they have any access to club funds for any personal use or security. Anybody who states otherwise is speaking from a position of ignorance and through their arse.

Will some evil despot take over the club and plunge us into some leveraged buy out hell? It is possible but unlikely from the current set up. Stan has just purchased the Rams in the US and supports plural ownership and the self sustaining model. Usamov is more unknown but vastly richer and wouldn’t need to borrow to buy in theory. To be honest neither seems anxious to make a move as things stand and anyway we are in no position to intervene unless one of you is a secret billionaire with an extra billion to spare. That is a bridge that we will have to cross when we come to it …if we come to it.

Personally I think that all concerned will see the figures today as an accelerator for their share value and be happy. Promoting theories that it will activate some go order for a hostile takeover is both counter-productive and without foundation.

Still there are those that like to rail without foundation. They don’t care about overseas growth because they don’t speak English over there and they are foreigners so who cares. They don’t care that the new signings are performing beyond most reasonable hopes. They don’t care about financial figures that bring a wealth of respect to our club internationally. They don’t care that every club that buys the type of players that they want, the way that they want Arsenal to buy, is in dire financial straits or at in danger of excluding themselves from European competition.

They want big signings whether good or bad.  They want Arsenal to buy players that they have seen 5 minute segments of on YouTube.  They want players with big price tags so that they can boast to their equally retarded mates.

They want it now daddy!

Thankfully, they do not run the club and their ilk never will. That is why we are on the rise whilst our historic rivals fall. That is why our future is secure and that is why, 10 years and 20 years from now in an expanding global and competitive domestic marketplace, Arsenal will still be competing at the top table of domestic and European football.

We all want trophies of course but some of us realise that some you win and some you lose no matter how good you are or how much you spend.

How much comfort is Portsmouth’s FA Cup victory to their fans now that they realise it cost them a premiership standing that may never return.

Will Liverpool’s trophy room be any compensation when the banks move in, their few good players are sold and they slip down the table or maybe worse?

We will have to ask them because those who generated those financial figures today through foresight, planning and discipline will never let it happen to us and they will take those actions in spite of what some Arsenal fans demand.

Arsenal prepare for HD Broadband

27 comments to Behind the Arsenal figures… what does it all mean?

  • RoyVasey

    I understand your points regarding the clubs financial stability.
    But it would be nice to get some defensive stability too, and if outlaying on a keeper to placate us fans is needed so be it. We pay for our tickets so we deserve a team worthy of the high ticket prices.
    £5 – 10 million on a keeper would be a worthy investment.
    How many shirt sales do you believe Almunia and Fabianski get?
    Yes, I know a new keeper won’t make £10 million on shirt sales, but I guarantee a Given or Akinfeev would be worth every penny on the pitch.
    Roy.

  • Thanks, because someone has to come out and teacher all the shouting toms something about “FORECAST”

  • A Casual Observer

    Great post 🙂

  • Terence McGovern

    UMMM! That year regarding the shirt deal should be 2014 . Still it is closer than when I submitted it first as 2104.
    Oh well.
    Also please bear in mind I wrote and submitted it on friday so please don’t start the keeper debate here eh 😉

  • LRV

    A very good piece, Terence. I concur about our Commercial parity with other top European Clubs and make bold to say that I know that it will happen. Plans are well afoot on that front.

  • Homer

    Top post. Like your points at the end re: Portsmith and Liverpool.

    Newer fans (and that includes me, as w/in the last 10 years) are accustomed to success. Raised expectations and all that. But patience gooners. Patience.

    The drubbing by WBA was not Almunia’s doing alone. The defense deplorable; offense equally so. Its a sport, gentlefolk. And on any give day, anything can happen. As one ardent gooner at my pub used to say (god rest his soul): That’s why the play the games. Otherwise why not just give the cup to the team the best players.

    ManIOU supporters don’t routinely call for SAF’s head after a draw or an upset loss. Or cry Rooney is crap sell him (even though he is!). Supporting the club, it seems to me, is distinct from acting like spoilt little kids.

    Cheers!

  • RoyVasey

    Sorry I won’t do it again 😉

  • Terence McGovern

    Cheers Roy! (I also have strong feelings on the subject and perhaps we should have a great (if academic ) debate at some point in a structured manner)

    There is one area that I didn’t really venture into and so far nobody seems to have picked up on it. i am still waiting to see what the Swiss rambler has to say on the subt.

    On our Consolidated balance sheet we have “Debtors due within one year” of over £62 million! What the hell??

    One assumes that the language is self-explanatory and basically we are due to receive money over the next year which is currently owed to us to the tune of £62 million! That is only £10 million less than our money from the SKY TV deal this year.

    Is it combination of stage payments due from say Henry, Hleb, Adebayour and Toure combined with commercial deal payments from Emirates and Nike? I mean it still sounds too much doesn’t it.

    What is more interesting to me on the subject is that it wasn’t alluded to in any of the director’s comments.

    Either way it is going to puzzle me until somebody elaborates upon it.

  • Phil

    Nice read Terence, always good to see articles from you!

  • munawwar

    i stay in india… the epl market is growing here… just this year the 1st man utd store opened in a very expensive area…. i have ofcourse not gone there… i will like breaking the glass to that store…!

    cant wait for arsenal stores here!

  • kiwigooner

    No the shareholders cannot touch any of this money.

    surely one vote can transform the non take up of dividends, so the shareholders can profit annually as the company does?

    Enjoyed the read..

  • munawwar

    this is in mumbai… india

  • Dark Prince

    Nice insight on where our business is heading towards.

    But surely, we have to start thinking about winning titles now. We had a huge debt which was a big burden on our spending abilities since last 5 years. But now all that debt is gone. The remaining debt is to be paid in 20 yrs which i think is easily achieveable. Plus the youngsters with whom we had started with 5 years ago hav all become quite matured now. I think its still the goalkeeping position which is little problematic for us. If we want to be seriously taken as title contenders then we have to bring in a top class goalkeeper. No offence to Almunia, he’s a decent keeper but he’s not good enough to win us the title.

  • Digger

    Good article,
    One point I would like to make is where you have alluded to the future broadband/internet broadcasting rights, do you not think that a global brand such as the mancs this will be a huge revenue stream for them and as such the Glazers know this and see this as a way to allieviate their debt and to a lesser extent the scousers as well?

  • Richard B

    The price you have to pay to buy a football club includes future earnings as well as what the club is worth today. I think that the so called Red Knights found that out when they started to talk to the Glazers about buying Manure. Liverpools problem is not being able to meet their debt payments which puts them in a much more difficult club valuation situation. Arsenals enviable finances puts them in the situation where they can call the shots in pretty well any situation – even telling Barcaloaner where to get off re Cesc.
    My guess however is that the strategy is to pay off the debt early or to create an investment pool that will generate income to meet the debt payments (at least in part) so that the Board can live up to its ‘custodianship’ principles. If bradband coverage expands then it may well be the case that match ticket prices will have to fall in order to continue to fill the stadiums. Having other sources of investment income could be vital – and no one else will have them!

  • Terence McGovern

    Digger this is very uncharted territory and it opens a huge can of worms. For example :

    A hi-def real-time stream is required in all regions subscribed from. So long term partners with relevant experience and tech are required.

    Will it compromise current and/or TV deals? As we do more through the internet will it marginalise more traditional viewing habits? I would think that the matches that are not purchased by SKY,ESPN, SETANTA etc should be available for sale.

    Will it all be done individually or collectively by the league and this to me is the biggest question.

    Arsenal Man UTD Liveroool etc would have a global following.
    Who the fk would want to watch the likes of Blackburn or stoke so it would make no sense to give them equal share but rather a Token % for the games that the participate in which are payperview streamed.

    Lots to be sorted out there really HUGE can of worms. That being said the club that has the different markets and media partnerships already sorted will make a killing if it does get the go ahead. Honestly I can see the courts being consulted.

    Oh and dark Prince I agree with you that yes now is the time to be investing more towards on-field success. i suspect though that the club found the market static and unyielding during the summer.The landscape has changed there I think. We may do more business in January than we did during the summer in terms of money I suspect(both out and in)

  • Terence McGovern

    Kiwi:
    I am pretty sure that the only shareholders that may consider asking about this would be the 2 largest but really neither have any financial need for it aand persuit of such by one would be used against them by the other.
    Nina might also but the others would vote her down ,,,,,well because she is Nina and basically they don’t like her. Whilst her 16% is in play, it is of no use to anybody unless one of the top 3 shareholders plays ball which is highly unlikely.

  • walter

    One detail mentioned the fact that watching reserve games could bring some money to the club. When I subscribed arsenal tv online it was broadcasting the reserve matches live. I always looked at it untill they stopped it. Still feel bad about it.

    Great article Terrence, really enjoyed it and learned from it. Thanks.

  • Phil

    Terence, while you are right in saying that nobody would be interested in watching streams of Stoke etc, think about the international broadcasting rights. Those are primarily purchased to broadcast United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool games, yet those four teams recieve as much money as any other side in the league in the interests of competitive balance.

  • Terence McGovern

    Phil I get what you are saying but we would be discussing matches that have essentially been rejected by the major broadcasters within certain markets.
    Remember that EVERY Arsenal game is shown on TV somewhere BUT not everywhere. A broadcaster purchases the right to show say Arsenal V Wigan in AISA for example. They show it on their channel that serves that marketplace. However that match is not shown say in the European marketplace. That match could then be shown in europe via hidef online stream broadcast. It would be safe to assume that the VAST majority of subscribers to view it would be doing so in support of the stronger brand of the two which would be Arsenal. Given that it is unlikely that Wigan would have the international brand infrastructure to have the media partnerships to act as a internet broadcast platform and it would exist through Arsenals partnerships, it would make sense that the majority of the payperview income is split between Arsenal and their partners.
    The fairest split would be that subscribers would have the ability to click online the team that they are watching in support of and income net of media partners is split accordingly. Those who are watching from a neutral point of view could click that also and that sector of the income stream could be split down the middle net of media partners share.
    This would also provide superb marketing data for both clubs by the way.
    I know you could say that the same situation exists within TV which is collectively allocated in terms of income but really, internet stream viewing, especially payperview is a far more “hardcore” activity in terms of supporter participation and so it is arguable that there is a diminished case for collective distribution of income especially where only one party has the infrastructure and indeed market to make payperview streaming a commercial viability.

    At some point the collective distribution of income has to stop in the case of greater defined direct contribution of income to a particular market. Otherwise clubs would be collectively distributing the incomes from the combined replica shirt sales for example which would be commercial communism.

    It is of course a good idea for the broadcasting tv rights to be collectively distributed as it is the main financier of the Premier League and allows the active and competitive participation of all league members.
    However it does need to be recognised that certain clubs have a global appeal and demand and should be allowed to exploit these for personal rather than collective gain within new and unexplored markets. Otherwise there is no incentive for lesser brands to bother to invest in their promotion as they could essentially leech off of those who already have.

    Some might say this is unfair but really if there was a streamed game being shown pay perview across AISA with the 2 already mentioned teams and Wigan had signed players from Korea, China and Japan it is highly likely that in the system that I suggested, they might have the lions-share of the revenue. It is all down to how much effort each individual club is willing to put into exploiting the demand in each marketplace.

  • Gf60

    “Behind the Arsenal figures… what does it all mean?”
    Lots of money but still no gk we can really rely on. Another flap from Fab tonight and I’ll be agreeing with Chesney!

  • zong

    Insightful and thought-provoking article, thanks. It will be very interesting to see if your predictions on January transfer activity pan out

  • critic

    all said and understood…but the important point here is arsenal need trophies for global recognition, for so called ur global expansion. All things will remain rosy until arsenal fails to qualify for cl. That will be a back breaker…players will leave and no star player would want to join arsenal or if they do they will demand very high salary. Attendance will go down reducing the money made through stadium ticket sales. Cl money wont be their also. Then what will u do with all ur money??Most of it will go down to build a new team and compensate for the losses made by stadium and cl.Better spend it while u can.
    We don’t need any world class player at present but we need some answer :
    why is their so many injuries since we moved to emirates???
    where is the worthy assistant manager which can takeover from arsene??
    for how long arsene gonna keep faith in fabianski???

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Nice post Terence – the future is rosy.More of the same for me.Go Gunners !

  • @Terence,

    Re your question on Other Debtors:

    Unfortunately, the 2010 press release does not provide an analysis for the £62m in Other Debtors, but we do have a break-down from the 2009 annual accounts and 2010 interim accounts, which confirmed that much of last year’s figure was down to outstanding transfer fee payments from other clubs (£23m). It’s therefore a reasonable assumption that this year’s balance will also include a large amount for transfer fees, especially given the high player sales.

    These transactions will already have been booked as profit, but the payments will further improve the cash levels when they are received.

    The remaining balance is just normal Trade Debtors, Prepayments and Accrued Income.

    I have today published my detailed analysis of Arsenal’s financials, which can be found here:

    http://swissramble.blogspot.com/2010/09/cash-city-rockers.html

  • Terence McGovern

    Cheers Rambler! I have been eagerly awaiting your take on this. I was thinking same but it was the high value at £62 million that threw me.

    Critic I would agree that despite statements to the contrary, non-qualification for the CL would be a disaster for the club. That being said I doubt that many would disagree the the top 4 spots will be taken by the usual suspects this year with man city replacing Spurs who will find the two front competitions of CL and Pl difficult. I admit to some worry that City will find some away form and threaten us but I do feel that Utd are in for some tough times this year also us finishing 2nd wouldn’t surprise me greatly.
    You are very correct though that gaining the championship would do more for our global branding than all the marketting we could muster.

  • Chris H

    Top post, always nice to here from someone who’s looking at the big picture.