Does Tottenham have the most profitable stadium, or just the stadium with the biggest income?



By Tony Attwood

There has been quite a bit of chat about Tottenham’s income and profit which I’d like to explore further – some of which took off with an article in the Mail  which announced that Tottenham “have overtaken Chelsea to become the richest club in London in the latest Deloitte Football Money League.”  That in itself doesn’t seem too exciting since Chelsea have been a model of how having money, spending money and being successful are not always related to each other when it comes to football.

Deloitte’s table for the top revenue-generating clubs for 2022/23 (the latest year for which audited reports are available) shows Manchester City as the top English club (although not the top across Europe) followed by (again just taking English clubs) Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal.  But this is revenue generation (ie income), not profit.  Chelsea earned some extra cash by selling off a few players they didn’t want.

Tottenham’s stadium is of course the most recent, so it has utilised money-making procedures in a way that (for example) Arsenal’s stadium which opened 18 years ago, on a smaller site, could not achieve.  Although those figures show that Tottenham’s stadium only generates £18m more a year than Arsenal.

A further problem with the data comes from the lax terminology used by the Mail.  For example, they say, “The rankings show that Tottenham have leapfrogged Chelsea to become the eighth richest club in the world with annual revenues of £549.2m – with the earning power of their stadium playing a huge part.”   Richness is a measure of wealth not income, and certainly, it would be hard to see how Tottenham can be the eighth richest club in the world with the stadium still to be paid for.  Unless of course they don’t own it and don’t pay any rent.   

In either case the club would still have to pay tax based on what the rent would be if commercial norms applied, and this is the reason why the ruse is not used.   Furthermore, if Tottenham own the stadium they will be repaying the debt at some point, and paying interest on the debt all the way through. If not they will be paying rent to the owner, which is quite possible – and expensive.

The Mail has also confused issues with a second article which claims that “Tottenham make the MOST money of any Premier League club per match, UEFA report reveals, with only two teams ahead of them across Europe… “

That is entirely believable but is a different issue.  It is a big stadium, and it charges (I am told but don’t have independent figures on this) more per seat on average than other teams.  So if (for example) the stadium is owned by Tottenham but they have a five year holiday before they have to start repaying their debts, that could easily make them the most profitable team in the league.  But when the payment of rent or mortgage begins that will cease to be the case, big time.

Warming to its pro-Tottenham theme, the Mail has done another piece which confuses income with profit. which accrues not just from entry to the ground but also from selling food and drink, and on the notion of having other sports at the ground – something that Islington Council refused Arsenal the right to have, thus restricting the club’s income.

The clearest report from the Mail reads, “As calculated by financial expert Kieran Maguire, Spurs make €5.6m (£4.8m) every matchday when taking into account gate revenue and money spent by fans at games, while also deducting how much it costs clubs to host matches.”

The cost of the hosting matches would be the salaries of staff and electricity bills, so it is a real cost.  But it doesn’t include mortgage repayments which will be huge.  If the owner is giving the ground to Tottenham for free the Inland Revenue will charge the owner tax on what the rent might be expected to be.

Thus what we have is a measure of receipts, not profitability.  A comparison might be me having a stall on the local market.  I make (ie receive) £100 in a day.  But that is not profit, because out of that would come the cost of renting the stall, and of buying the goods I sell.

There is also the headline “Spurs are now London’s richest club, according to Deloitte’s Football Money League,” but in fact that is misleading as the Deloitte table is clearly about income, and ignores expenditure. It is about assets, and it is unclear who owns the stadium.

So the most likely truth is that “A Deloitte’s report has revealed Tottenham take more money than any other Premier League club per match” where the optimum word is “take” not “make”.

What we also learn, and this is a point that is not open to interpretation is that “Spurs also turn out to be the most expensive team to watch” (from Forbes.) 

Thus as Tottenham have not revealed their expenditure figures (and there is no legal reason why they should until they hand over their annual audited accounts) we don’t know if Tottenham are making a profit in the normal sense of money received being more than money spent.

The key issues are that the ground does have to be paid for, and if the payment is made by someone else such as the club owner, that will leave Tottenham facing a mega tax bill on profits, at the end of the year.

Second, it means if Tottenham can’t count the ground as an asset, that makes its annual financial report look very dodgy indeed, will load their expenditure on rent, and is going to load the tax bill of the person who does own the ground.  

In summary, the only logical way to explain this with a sane financial methodology is that Tottenham has the biggest financial take at match days.  But, as and when the cost of paying off the loans for building the stadium are taken into account they will probably be seen as making the biggest loss of any club in the league.

One final point of tiny detail: it would seem boorish to put the letters after my name that I might use in business correspondence when writing an article about Arsenal.  But I do have a collection of them plus 20 years of experience as chair (now retired) of a modest-sized plc which does give me a certain knowledge of how company accounts work.  That doesn’t mean I’m always right, but it does mean this is not just a load of anti-Tottenham guesswork.  We’ll know for sure when the first P&L accounts for 2023/24 are released – and when we see how much Tottenham spend on transfers this summer.

8 Replies to “Does Tottenham have the most profitable stadium, or just the stadium with the biggest income?”

  1. Love the research. I was told at the time of them needing to move, was that the new stadium was free to spurs and paid for by local government to boost financial income for the area, eg local shops and cafes and rail service and transport etc.. etc.. on match days.
    I remember that I was annoyed at the time, because Arsenal had to borrow money to purchase their stadium, and the only local government help they got, was to be blackmailed into having to finance a new recycle plant and rebuild the local tube station, in order for the council to give them building permission. So you can imagine how sick I felt that spurs on the other hand got a huge handout by their local council. How is that fare?

  2. Spurs were also let off S106 obligations for payments to GLA by Johnson when he was Mayor.

  3. All slightly flawed statements, every clubs stadium is an asset, whether ‘mortgaged’ or not, same as buying your own house & THFC do own the stadium – which isn’t “unclear” as you state, it’s common knowledge & publicly accessible. (Exceptions are obviously the clubs that do not own their stadium, Wet Spam being one).
    Income is income no matter where it comes from & all non-football events are to the benefit of the clubs income.
    THFC has the biggest stadium in London & charges the most/seat on average so, matchday gate receipts income alone is more.
    Yes, no income from European football so THFC’s figures next year compared to Arsenal’s will perhaps be closer/reversed?
    Finally ALL the major finance analysts that do report on these matters state how financially viable THFC are so if you’re saying they’re all wrong, will be interesting to understand why they’re not up to the job they do?

  4. I remain amazed (and kind of disgusted) at how the press just keeps on presenting stuff that is only half-baked and not giving readers the facts.

    On such a basic thing as revenue and worth/wealth it just borders total incompetence.

  5. @BigStew,

    the issue is not the financial analysts, although many of these have produced flawed reports in the past about many companies that ended up going bust…like Crediit Suisse last year to the tune of billions of hard losses for shareholders.

    The issue is how the so-called press just don’t present the facts. I have a 1 billion stadium and 1 billion in debt (I am making up numbers) means my net worth is zero. So the stadium may be an asset. But if you can’t pay for it, you’ve got a problem. At some point, interests will have to be paid. And the mortgage has to be paid back. For half a billion over 20 years you are looking at 25 million a year before interest and before running the club. So, sorry, Sp*rs are not printing money, are not in a fantastical financial situation and are not ‘rich’. They have a tool that is amazing. And need to be able to make money from it. Looks possible that this year they won’t make as much has hoped for.

    When I remember the flack Mr Wenger took because of the cost of the Arsenal stadium, and how 19 years of successive CL qualification was not even aknowledged, his financial management being systematically criticised as penny pinching and lack of ambition, I just can not appreciate how Sp*rs suddenly are financial geniuses and their future is rosy. I just shake my head.

    I mean…before the new stadium they were able to get into the CL how many times since the turn of the century without the debt burden ? And now that they have it I read that basically the manager thinks it is too early for the CL and that the EL is sufficient ?!?! Total lack of ambition. Lackadaisical is the word. Imagine the shit storm that would have happened had Mr Arteta stated 12 month ago the same thing ?!?!

    And with the new financial rules coming, they’ll have a harder time building a team on steroïds. Which by the way is good news for their academy players. That being said, they did not oppose the new financial rules…which shows they know they cannot compete financially with then ManXX clubs and are all happy that spending is capped – as they don’t have that much to spend during more then a decade or so I guess.

    The double standards on display are just fascinating. And people are just lapping them up.

  6. Seriously Sir? That Chelsea model of having money and spending money and being successful are not correlated?
    Is it a joke, are you kidding. Is it a slip of the pen or something.
    Chelsea is by far the most successful epl team in recent time, if at all only slightly beaten by another.
    Chelsea have won practically major trophies in recent past with short term coaches, and so how is that not directly related to money invested on players and coaches.

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