Barca on the edge of defaulting on their debts: new figures

By Tony Attwood

Until recently I had the feeling that the mass media was going to pretend forever that Barce-loan-us was a well run, well organised football club who have every right to take any players they want from any club they want.  They are, after all, God’s team.

Although the news that they could not pay their players salaries got into the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal, there was a general feeling of “this can’t be a real story because this is Barca” and it was dismissed as tittle-tattle.

It is a bit like the way the Liverpool story has been handled for years.  Liverpool are a team made by the Almighty.   They don’t go bust.  Their supporters don’t cause deaths.  They are honour personified.

The BBC even covered the Barca financial story with a comment that it was all probably nothing and the new President was probably just making it all up in order to say, “Look at the mess the last President left us with, but don’t worry I am sorting it out.”

Now however the walls that hold up that disgraceful empire are collapsing.  The Guardian has even run a story saying that Barce couldn’t buy Cesc even if he wanted to go (which as Walter showed in the last article, he doesn’t).

The Guardian’s piece centres around a further financial analysis prepared by Professor José María Gay, the head of the University of Barcelona’s economics and business unit.  (And notice how I openly quote the newspaper and give it credit for this – even though they nicked my analysis of why and how it is the lack of coaches in English football that stops England progressing.  But being magnanimous I shall let such a trivial matter pass.  I wouldn’t want you to think I was bitter in any way, or even that I remembered the incident).

Back to the plot: In the document Gay presents Barce’s 2009-10 balance sheet.  Wage costs have risen 55% from their 2008 level to €262m (£220m). But (and this is the big point) the club’s stated revenues have risen 33% over the same period, meaning wages now account for almost 64% of income.

The key point is that the club’s short-term debt of €392m (£329m) far exceeds their working capital of €110m (£92m) and “even hints there could be a risk of default during the current close season.”

Shall I do that again?

It “even hints there could be a risk of default during the current close season.”

I don’t want clubs to fail, but I have to say that given the behaviour of Barca over the summer I am as amused by that one as by the auditor’s note on the last Liverpool accounts to the effect that there must be doubt as to the  famous IOU club’s ability to continue as a trading company.

As the major financial reporting centres such as the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, Blomberg, Reuters and Untold Arsenal reported,  Barcelona have been trying to borrow another €150m (£126m) but have failed to announce any success.  Wot?  No money!  Surely not!

Moving across the Adriatic we don’t hear too much about Italian clubs in crisis, nor about their ability to meeting the Financial Doping Regulation requirements – and I would love to find a writer dealing with this (if you are one such, if you could be, or if you know one, please do let me know).  From the little I know of the debts of Inter and AC Milan they seem to be Manchester Cities – endlessly supported by rich benefactors.  This leaves them with no debt, but no basis on which to meet the new financial regs.

However one club has come clean and gone to the dogs… Roma, who are now up for sale as the owners (the Sensi family) try to pay off UniCredit.

That might seem like a detail of no importance (equivalent to the consideration of Billy The Dog’s review of policing activity at WBA matches, and the Wigan’s chances of survival this season, but here’s two snippets).

But read on, dear and beloved reader, for there is more.

First the family has been trying to sell the club for three years, without success.  Second Roma is not a backwater side – Roma finished second in Serie A last season.

Which brings me back to financial doping.  I was having a read through the Uefa document “The European Club Footballing Landscape” (as one does while waiting for the Bourne movie to start on ITV2).  It sets out much of the background – and it interestingly does confirm that even under the current lax licensing laws a number of clubs who have qualified for Euro competitions have been refused places because they don’t meet the regs.  It is an encouraging sign.

So I started to think, which of the top clubs in the EPL will make it past the regs?

Clearly what Uefa expects is that the clubs will clean up their acts to get in through the door – but I wonder if they realised just how hamstrung some of the clubs are.  Or indeed just how deep the crisis goes.

Let’s go back to the fact that for Barca are “hints there could be a risk of default during the current close season.”

OK let’s say that is over the top and Barca don’t go pop.  They could still keep going, but only with more and more borrowed money.  Now with the figures noted above, and with the fact that these figures will get worse because Barca have to borrow more and more, their ability to show they are breaking even will decline.

But there is worse on the table: Barca have reached the top – they have won everything.  But for many matches their ground is not full – which makes it hard to raise prices much more.  There is no Arsenal-style waiting list.   They can’t do any better on the pitch, and they have been so clever at marketing their brand it is hard to see they can go much further.  They can’t get better fixtures (Spain is always a two horse race).

So although it would seem that they can actually turn around their own situation and survive, there is a real question, and I mean a really real, big time, very big, as in enormous, question as to whether they can both survive and meet the Financial Doping regs.

Meanwhile in Italy the same must be true about Roma.

In England the same is true of Chelsea, Man City, Man Utd, Liverpool, Tottenham, Villa, Everton, Birmingham… well the list goes on.

So does that mean we are down to Arsenal as the reps in the Champs League?

No, because the clubs can change – it is just not so easy.  The one club that looks like it is doing the work properly is Chelsea who are clearly changing their approach to get the wages bill down, and reduce transfer fees.  They will probably be ready in time, although it may take longer to get back to the power that they have had when they could buy anyone who moves.  As Arsenal have shown, it can take seven or eight years to get a good youth team together.

Man City are just Chelsea about three years behind, and I suspect part of their development plan is to win the league but forgo Europe, and then follow the Chelsea model with the hope that they can cobble together a youth policy.

Man U and Liverpool as we know are hopeless cases and simply won’t be able to qualify under present arrangements

Tottenham’s accounts are so eccentric that since I sent Phil a note saying could we cover the Tinies next in our regular finance review articles he hasn’t been seen. Last I got was a quick note from the Virgin Islands saying he still can’t make sense of what is going on but the weather was quite nice.  I can’t believe Uefa would leave a hole as gaping as the one the Totts use at the moment to cover up their losses – if they have done then you can expect every club to move offshore at once.

Villa, Everton, Birmingham and the rest – they all lose money and are backed by financiers.  Some give money for nothing, for the love of the club.  Some like Villa’s owner make a really good profit on their loans by charging way over the normal lending rate.  None of them are anywhere near break even.

So the result?  For Barca, I can see survival but not an easy ride to Europe.  Arsenal are already there.  For Chelsea yes I think they will be there.  For Man City, yes but it will take a couple more years.  For the rest in England, and I suspect some in Italy and more in Spain (where nearly half the first division are in administration), I really can’t see them making it.

Coming shortly: How Tottenham created one of the biggest financial cons of all time through their company reports.

Woolwich Arsenal

Making the Arsenal

Untold Arsenal

47 Replies to “Barca on the edge of defaulting on their debts: new figures”

  1. brilliant as always. can’t wait for the Spuds report, i just don’t get how they make it stack up year after year???

  2. with ‘arry in charge anything is possible….the ultimate second hand car dealer!

  3. Great article. But its really worrying that if such a big club like Barca are in trouble whats going to happen to the rest of them.

    Good to see that we’r the only big club in the EPL who are financially stable. I’ve read that the German league is the most financially stable out of all the European leagues and with full capacity attendances – is that true? I think the FA have been too lenient with Premier League clubs which has led to this crazy money borrowing and bust cycle.

    I still think we’r going to fall short this season again unless we get a GK,CB & DM

  4. Well written and researched as always, hope the other clubs are dealt with properly and fifa don’t bottle it because its man u etc etc. Going to miss the start of season as in NZ at the mo so will be watching at 3 am instead

  5. “Please expose Spuds..we want to know..”

    Not a nice thought at breakfast time.

  6. At the risk of sounding like a Barcelona apologist, people have to be very careful with quoting figures in isolation, as they can be highly misleading.

    Let’s take the analysis quoted by the Guardian for Barcelona (with :

    Short-term Debt €392m (£329m)
    Working Capital €110m (£92m)
    Shortfall €282m (£237m)

    Not very good obviously, but now let’s present the same figures for Arsenal from their last annual report (up to 31 May 2009):

    Short-term Debt £314m
    Working Capital £157m
    Shortfall £157m

    That excludes development properties, but these do not really fall into working capital, unless you’re prepared to sell at any price.

    In any case, not a million miles away from Barcelona’s “shock-horror” figures.

    Clearly, nobody jumped up and down last year when Arsenal’s accounts were released, saying that they were about to default. In fact, their financials are a shining example to other football clubs and the figures are even better today.

    The point I am making is that you can present the same figures in different ways, depending on the message you want to convey. There’s an old joke that goes something like:

    Manager asks accountant: what does 2+2 make?
    Accountant: are you buying or selling?

  7. Hey Tony
    Ive been an admirer of your page for the last year or two.
    Really keep up the good work and have taken your advice and started reading young guns aswell which is never far from the truth unlike the other tabloid blogs on here.
    Fantastic writing with a hellish amount of tongue in cheek.
    Great for the dreary mornings and easing into work with a coffee.

  8. I see ESPN state that Barca have now secured a 155 million euro loan to enable them to pay the wages. How can the Banks justify this?
    Also, what is the latest on the Mediapro situation? They have applied for bankruptcy protection. How does this work in Spain? Do the Courts decide? What is the timescale for all this? Any ideas, anyone.

  9. I accept your point Swiss R, but then it gives rise to another point…

    First, what exactly are these short term debts, and how short term is short term – which is to say when are they due

    Second, there has not been (as far as I know) a serious report from an academic who studies such matters, saying Arsenal are in a mess.

    The point of my article is that the original analysis comes from a respected source with high credentials.

    This is of course one of the things that we are very short on in the world of football analysis. We have a billion idiots writing in the tabloids for every serious academic whose work is not compromised by consultancy etc.

  10. Tony, Tony, Tony – meant to say this a while ago and it’s going to make your day.

    Did you notice how (and as you haven’t said so I’m guessing no), during the pre-kick off commentary of the Water Closet Final on the Beeb that there was direct reference to Spain having twice as many professional coaches (or however many it is) as any other footballing nation?

    I instantly turned to the room and explained that the guy who writes the site that I have occasionally been published on wrote an article about this and that the Guardian had then lifted the data directly from the blog and spouted it as its own and that now the Beep had lifted a piece of that and used it in it’s opening commentary for the final.

    Going out to the largest televised audience ever (well those that take the Beeb’s coverage anyway)!

    That’s YOU that is.


    If anyone recorded it have a listen – it’s there alright.

  11. Im a thorough & ardent Tony backer but I love Swiss Rambler’s point. Tony, any response?

  12. Even with the entertaining level of creative accounting the Totts use, their figures seem to be following the usual trend for an Appy Arry Redknapp club – going downhill. These are the most recent publicly announced pre-tax profit/loss figures:

    Six months ending 31-Dec-2008: £39,828,000 profit (1)
    Year ending 20-Jun-2009: £33,398,000 profit (2)
    Six months ending 31-Dec-2009: £8,296,000 loss (3)

    Last year end (2) looks quite good EXCEPT that period includes (1). In other words, in the second half of the 08-09 season they appear to have actually lost £6,430,000. And when did Arry join them? Ah yes, 26th Oct 2008. I haven’t seen the detail but by all rights (1) should include the £2.5M pay-offs to Juande Ramos, Marcos Alvarez & Gus Poyet and the £5M compensation to Portsmouth for Arry, never mind his first two months salary so that first six month figure really does look quite healthy. Changing manager cost them £7.5M and they still apparently made almost £40M profit in that first half. Then the famously brilliant wheeler dealer got his first stab at the transfer market in Jan 2009 and the losses started.

    I’m so looking forward to seeing the Totts’ year-end accounts. Whether I believe them or not depends on what someone better qualified tells me.

  13. Nice article Tony.

    And I just like to add that in the newspapers over here it has just been reported that BarceLOANus has got a loan of 155 million euro’s from the banks, La Caixa and Santander.
    Today BarceLOANus will tell more about the loans it is said.

  14. I have read the Independent article. Its all talk! Things may get better for them if they get more prudent but to say “things can only get better” is not quite spot on, going by the very article itself.

  15. @Tony

    I am not disputing the credentials of Professor Jose Maria Gay de Liebana (to give him his full name), but I would be surprised if he has been able to access the full Barcelona balance sheet. My guess is that he has based his comments on the presentation to Barcelona members (which I have also seen), which does not provide enough detail for him to reach any conclusions with complete confidence.

    As others have already mentioned, Barcelona secured their bank loan yesterday:

  16. Agreed Lanz, it is very thin on substance.

    That said I am with Swiss Rambler – I wouldn’t write them off. Barcelona & Real Mad always seem to get what they need from the banks. They are not in the position we are but they’ll be aright.

    BTW – if you have not read the Rambler’s blog it’s an absolute must for those among us who are more interested in the financial side of things. A truly incredible piece of work in the blogosphere –

  17. Well if Barcelona really are in trouble surely they can just put sponsors on their shirt? I was of the opinion that putting the Unicef logo as ‘charity’ was just a way to get supporters used to the idea of having a name on the shirt, with it eventually opening up a revenue stream.

  18. I’m always wary of debt figures, as I don’t psrticularly understand them. However, we are all missing the point thst Tony made: wages breached 60% of turnover, and are now 64%. TO put that into context, United around around 40% and We are around 45%.

    They even managed that with individual negotiation of TV rights: if that situation changes, their TV money could fall drastically and wages would have to reduce with them.

  19. Just to head a non-existent debate off at the pass so to speak. The points made by rambler suisse and sir Anthony are not mutually exclusive and should not be polarised diversions from the key point that I believe Sir Anthony was inferring, which is:

    Even if Barca have plenty of credit and have received a new loan to pay players and even buy new ones to have to pay, SURELY this will run them foul of the new financial fairplay framework on some if not many levels.

    Barca live in a bubble of hubris. it will be Platini who will be the most worried by far over this. He has regularly lauded Barca’s club model and this will give him the unpleasant option set of considering the exclusion of Barca from the CL thus making a mockery of his previous praise OR turning a blind eye and making a mockery of his new finacial rules and being seen far and wide to be favouring a priviliged institution that owes everybody money.

    Has anybody considered that were Barca to default on their debts, the ripple effect could cause other clubs to suffer the same fate. I wonder how shaky the whole house of cards really is.

  20. @Terence,

    First, let me state very clearly that I am generally in agreement with Tony. This website has proved an inspiration, informing and amusing on a daily basis, which is a rare thing indeed.

    What I try to do in my comments here is give a little more detail, sometimes a slightly different perspective. There is no doubt that Barcelona’s financials could be healthier, equally that their model is very dependent on TV income, which is a risk, given: (a) Mediapro’s own difficulties; (b) the possible move to collective bargaining in La Liga.

    However, we should aim to be balanced on this site above all. For example, as it stands, Barcelona will have no difficulty in meeting UEFA’s fair play regulations, as these do not focus on debt, but rather the ability to service the debt. Their main objective is to get clubs to break-even and the fact is that Barcelona have consistently reported profits over the last few years. Of course, that may change if the TV revenue were to decline, but as Shard said above, that might well be the cue to start selling shirt sponsorship.

    Interestingly, even Manchester City could pass the new regulations. I am in the middle of writing a blog about them at the moment and I can see how they could achieve that.

  21. I bank with Santander and frankly resent them using my money to subsidise Barcelona FC! It’s almost as bad (as you have mentioned before Tony) as all of us keeping Liverpool FC afloat via RBS.
    I think I’ll take my money out and buy some beer instead…

  22. GREAT NEWS about Barca and I think the arsenal board would be out of their mind to sell a player to barca at the moment

    I cant help but think that fifa will end up making concessions, the champions league needs the big teams in it, if they are not surely it affects everyone’s revenue? surely no one would pay to see arsenal and chelsea keep reaching the final of champions league, there has got to be disturbing knockon effects even for arsenal.

    The thing I can see is that teams like Barca will have alot less financial muscle and the only way they will get our players in the future is if they leave on a free as with Flamini or demand to leave as with many and Wenger rarely stands in their way which means we get a lot less. Surely it will be even worse for the little clubs because if a cash strapped big team comes in for their player they will get screwed

    The only way forward for these clubs is self imposed salary caps

  23. What a list of teams that fall foul of the new Financial Doping Regulations!What a bitter pill it will be to swallow to reconcile things, so as to qualify under these new and stringent (sic) rules!
    The more I hear and read it seems Arsenal will be playing CL chiefly against the Germans and many smaller countries…..

    and everyone else will be in a league of their own????

  24. Does this mean that we are going to keep playing Bayern Munich in the final from now on?

  25. The Swiss Rambler: much has been made of the financial fair play proposals and how income streams such as sponsorship deals will be checked to be at “market value” to avoid wealthy backers simply sponsoring their team as a way around the regulations.

    Quite clearly, Barcelona’s and Real Madrid’s debts are low interest, as the rate that they have to pay is lower tan market rates seemingly due to good connections. Surely there is some form of caveat that also ensures that loans must have interest charged at market value?

  26. Update: The Catalan mob have secured the loan they were seeking. The facility is €155M. €79M will be used to refinance obligations falling due. €16M will be used to secure “certain guarantees” while €61M will be used to settle unpaid wages.

    They have unpaid wages of €61M!

    By the figures you cite in the article, it means they have not paid their people in 3 months!

    Swiss Rambler;

    This piece of information suggests they are in real trouble. Why, otherwise would they be so insolvent as to default on paying wages for 3 months? While simultaneously taking on large debt facilities to refinance existing loans.

    This, prima facie, would suggest they might have problems servicing their loan obligations going forward. I’m with Tony.

  27. Tony – Despite your efforts and others to bring some financial literacy to Arsenal fans, too many are still living in cuckoo land. Only lunatics fail to heed the lesson. Barcelona, with all its on-field success has run itself into insolvency (i.e. no liquidity) by indulging in reckless spending on wages and transfers. Prime example is KM at 9:20 am who shows despite acknowledging Barca-loaners difficulties ends his post with a cry for more spending by saying “I still think we’r going to fall short this season again unless we get a GK,CB & DM.” How brainwashed can one be? Man City splashed an almighty amount of cash last season on Given, Toure, Lescott, Viera, deJongh, Barry, Kompany (either GK, CB or DM) and came FIFTH. Not only does spending not guarantee success, but almost certainly reckless spending guarantees bankruptcy.

  28. I heard that they pay their players twice a year. So 61 million is not that bad on that front.

    can some1 claarify.

  29. Even if they only pay them twice a year, this is something you have to keep in mind and you have to see in advance that the money is available. But is wasn’t so that means they are run like a company heading for bankrupcy or have very bad people running the club

  30. €61M will not cover their wage bill for 6 months, unless they have another €70M in cash sitting somewhere. And if they had that €70M it would not be very comforting to those who follow the club as it would just outline the massive amounts of cash the club consumes.

  31. @Ole Gunner

    Barcelona pay their players’ wages twice a year, which was exacerbated this year by very high bonus payments. This may be the prime reason for the €61m shortfall. In last year’s accounts, the analysis included €58m for “variable compensation”.

    Their cash flow would also have been impacted if the TV payment from Mediapro was delayed.

  32. Swiss Rambler,

    Whichever way you put it together, it’s impossible to escape the fact that they have a shortfall of €60-70M in wages which would be about 3 months worth of wages. Especially when you combine that with them having to refinance loans falling due.

    It is possible that the Mediapro angle makes things worse for them, and makes things look worse than they are. But Mediapro are believed to be insolvent.

  33. In case you missed it, Sir Tony said this in the posting:

    “As the major financial reporting centres such as the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, Blomberg, Reuters and Untold Arsenal reported…”

    It had me rolling with laughter. But again, given the record in the past few months and unattributed quotes by The Guardian and, again, the Beeb, there is a ring of truth there.

    Keep it up Sir Tony.

  34. I’ve been going thro’ the news in spain. It seems Tony is actually right about Barca’s finances. Faus say’s they are worse than they thought!

  35. ‘And notice how I openly quote the newspaper and give it credit for this – even though they nicked my analysis of why and how it is the lack of coaches in English football that stops England progressing. But being magnanimous I shall let such a trivial matter pass. I wouldn’t want you to think I was bitter in any way, or even that I remembered the incident’

    At least you published your work first.

    I find certain luminaries stealing the contents of my PC when I share the stuff with no-one.

    When I first started detecting this, I pulled my internet connection for 2 years and found out that folks were using rather more sophisticated techniques to analyse each keystroke I typed into my PC not connected to anything but the wall socket for power. (To find out about this, type something like ‘Kelvin McKenzie is a f**king c**t who should eat his own shit for breakfast’ (that’s not what I typed and that’s not something I wish to recommend but you get the gist) and be amazed as someone in the flat below taps on their ceiling/your floor for the only time in 3.5 years of residing there before you complete the sentence. Ho hum, do I hear you saying?)

    So after that, I realised that it was pointless trying to keep my PC private and decided to use this to my own advantage.

    1. Ask Piers Morgan about the song I wrote about his good friend Rebekah Brooks – I kept it secret for 9 months before release in summer 2008, after which she and her erstwhile husband soon separated. I’m sure it was all coincidence.
    2. Ask David Beckham if he got his place back in Real Madrid’s 1st team on the back of me writing a spoof interview betwen the Real President and Sam Allardyce, which I composed for a laugh the day Allardyce resigned. Arsene miraculously said that ‘Real will be better next season’ 24 hours after I composed the skit. I’m sure that was coincidence too. I’m sure Sam losing his job at Newcastle the very week that Capello took up residence at the FA was all coincidence too….
    3. Ask Jose Mourinho about why his players did the Hokey Cokey at Old Trafford and whether or not he read anything from Ali G well before I released the piece to a young ITV employee.
    4. Ask Arsene about why he ‘likes people who negotiate hard’. I’m sure a skit I wrote between Shinawatra and Sven had nothing to do with it… wasn’t released when he mentioned the fact within 24 hours of me writing the skit.
    5. Ask Rupert Murdoch about whether a skit I wrote about BBC organisational issues by a fictitious Colonel Blimp led to a full on attack on the BBC on the front page of the Sunday Times a few years back. I’m sure he doesn’t get access to my PC ever, does he? He who is the conscience of the world, after all……
    6. Ask Tony Blair whether he stepped down as a result of a football song I wrote and sent to a former editor of the DT along with a charming song about MUFC also (termed Friends Re_United). I’m sure the fact that I suggested a Lib-Con coalition in early 2007 had nothing to do with subsequent events…..

    Once you realise that stealing from PCs is regarded as normal and ‘competitive’, rather than criminal thuggery, you’ll see that it’s not just Arsenal FC who have things to complain about (and as they seem to engage in that stealing, they may just in fact be a tad hypocritical). In the eyes of some of the commercial thugs, I educate myself by a decade of hard struggle, sell my flat to pay for an MBA off my own bat, start to earn some money, then they steal all my intellectual assets after enjoying high salaries for 20 years and imply that despite being lifelong LFC fans, that my acquiring two tickets for the Ems means they are now an Arsenal fan and they will stop at nothing to destroy my enjoyment of it just to show who’s boss.

    Not that I am bitter. I am merely incredibly angry at the total commitment in this country to the protection of thick thugs who wish to lower others to their own level as their addiction to coercive power is greater than their commitment to self-improvement.

    There’s a difference between legitimate anger and bitterness, you know.

    It results from understanding the world as it is and realising that you are discriminated against, and that to change that will take away your own chance to succeed.

    Bitterness comes from a failure to acknowledge the way the world is and trying to imply that it should be something that it won’t be in your lifetime.

    Anger is something you can use. Bitterness is something that is an excuse for inaction.

  36. @Rhys Jaggar: Whooooahhhh!!! Duuuude!!! I know a guy you can see for that.

    @Tony Attwood: Love the blog, love Arsenal, but dislike intensely comments like “Their supporters don’t cause deaths”. That’s needless, insensitive and childish. Belittles this blog.

    Just thought I’d register my disapproval.

    Insensitive comments aside – keep up the good work.

  37. oooh, more news on barcaloanus. Seems an apparent 10 mill ( or something) profit, now, after “Changing the way they do their accounts ( possibly without lying now?) is now a 64 mill loss ( approx).

    Oh my, How. I. Laughed. =D

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