Comparison of top club’s figures

by Tony Attwood

Last year there was a lot of celebrating as it was announced that overall Premier League clubs made a profit of £113m in the 2014/15 season.

Now in the complete analysis of club finances made by the Guardian and published today for 2015/16, 12 clubs are shown as making a profit totalling £153m, while eight clubs made a lost which in total came to £270, leaving Premier League clubs back in loss overall to the tune of £117m, as compared with the total profit of £153m last time around.

I’ve taken the Guardian figures, which they in turn have taken from the annual reports filed at Companies House (a legal requirement for companies registered in England and Wales), and set them out in a table which, I hope, leads an easier comparison.

The figures have had a little work done on them by me – not everyone separates out the interest clearly, and Arsenal separate retail from commercial and property income – I have added them together – along with player costs which I have also added into commercial.

Because it is up to each company how it reports its activities the figures are never directly comparable between clubs, but as a broad way of seeing the finances of each club I think this is a fair way to do it, and I am grateful to the Guardian for doing the hard work!

All figures are in millions of pounds.

Club Turnover Wages Profit Match Media Commercial Debt Interest
Arsenal £354 £195 £3 £100 £141 £113 £3 £14
Chelsea £335 £224 £-85 £70 £143 £122 £1400 £0
Liverpool £302 £208 £-20 £62 £124 £116 £165 £6
Man City £392 £198 £20 £53 £161 £178 £11 £1
Man Utd £515 £232 £49 £107 £140 £268 £261 £20
Tottenham £210 £100 £38 £57 £94 £59 £125 £4


Manchester United of course have the largest turnover because they have the benefits of the biggest stadium, plus the benefit of having introduced world wide marketing of the brand way before any other club in England ever thought it possible, back in the 1960s.

Arsenal’s turnover is below Manchester City’s not because of the stadium prices, player trading, or selling matchday scarves, but because of the sponsorship fees paid to Manchester City by the airline that is itself part of the country, itself virtually owned by the owner of the club.

In a strictly commercial world Manchester City’s sponsorship from the airline would be far less, and indeed the fact that, as part of the deal the airline agreed with Manchester’s local authority, it would expand the number of flights it arranged to and from the regional airport.  Thus revealing just how muddied these waters can be.


Arsenal paid the fifth lowest wages of the group, not least because of their ability to bring through young players who naturally attract lower wages at the start of their careers.   In one very real sense this is a good thing, not just to allow the club to make money but also because it has the chance to increase wages – should it wish to – to retain key players.

To give an example of how this works in the season just finished, Holding would have been on modest wages in footballers’ terms, but these will now rise rapidly.  Just having a few players like this who come through each year helps keep the costs down, and leaves more money for transfers.


Arsenal’s profit is shown as modest, and some way behind Manchester City (again due to their inflated sponsorship fees), Manchester United (again worldwide marketing) and Tottenham (player trading).

Matchday income

In terms of matchday funding Arsenal are only behind Man U (with its bigger stadium, and its own worldwide TV channel).   However Arsenal’s growth area continues to be in the commercial (including sponsorship) sector.  The club tied itself into long term deals to help with the building of the Emirates, and for a long time had a marketing office whose hands were tied by these deals.  Now the growth is back on, and will continue – especially in the short term, as both Tottenham and Chelsea have yet to develop their new stadium.  Tottenham will then certainly have the same long term sponsorship deals which are front loaded to help pay for the stadium.  Chelsea’s new stadium still seems years away.


As you would expect, Chelsea’s debt is in the billions of pounds league.  They pay no interest on it (if they did they would be bankrupt) but it is a debt to the owner, and one day he, or perhaps his inheritors, might call it in.  You never know.


Arsenal’s interest payment however is high, and I suspect this was due to the way in which the interest was scheduled to reduce the burden on the club in the earlier period at the Emirates.  But their debt has now almost gone, leaving the club in an extraordinarily powerful position (if it wishes to exert it) in terms of player trading in the future.

Future development

Much of the work on the new training and development facilities for Arsenal is done.  For myself I’d love to see some of the profit diverted into a second stadium to be used by under 23s and under 18s and the women’s teams.

Chelsea want a new stadium, but certainly are not going to start doing anything this year (unless they have given up on the rebuild of their ground and are moving to Potters Bar or somewhere like that.  So the three years away from home is still on the cards.

Liverpool could still extend their ground further, although it is also possible that having built some executive boxes, and then had great difficulty with local resistance to increased prices, they might hold on until they are able to edge the prices up to the level the owners want.

Man City were of course given their stadium, and have built an extra tier, and have their airline deal – and their second stadium.  I suspect the owners will continue their policy of finding a club in every continent, having successful franchises in the USA and Australia, to go along with the one in Manchester.

Manchester Utd have it all – the stadium and the worldwide trading.  Nothing more to build.

Tottenham on the other hand have it all to do.  At least one season away from WHL is coming, but they have the benefit of some very excitable supporters for whom coming above Arsenal and runners up in the league does seem to be a trophy.

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13 Replies to “Comparison of top club’s figures”

  1. Nice work, Tony. Curiously, though, it is surprising to see that Man City, with all the talk about their big earners and their capacity to attract our players, have kept their wage bill below Arsenal’s. Would it have something to do with our so called “socialist” wage structure which encourages only a small wage disparity amongst our players, irrespective of actual on-field contributions? Or, perhaps we have a larger playing staff?

    We’ve heard of the heavy wages the likes of Yaya, Aguero, Debruyne, Kompany and Sterling are on. Why is this not reflected in the numbers for 2015/16?

    Do the records you have reviewed show staff-to-turnover stat, which may help shed some light on this aspect?

    Oh, and I think the Chelsea situation is like a time bomb that will soon go off. Expectedly, there will be a buyer willing to take over that debt, so long as they keep a fair level of success going.

  2. ManCity, have rearranged their staff numbers from past years, as at 31st May 2016, down to 320 average per month. The Company Directors are paid NIL! Matchday temporary staff numbers, are not disclosed. The ladies football players will be included in the numbers.

    We, obviously, have different accounting methods for Manchester City F.C., compared to the other clubs?

    The Arsenal, by comparison, employ 651 per monthly average, plus 835 temporary match day employees. The Arsenal Directors, apart from one, receive fees with 2 on salaries and expenses!

  3. Sorry to have to keep saying this every time a financial review is done but gross debt still exists at over £200m – it is net debt which sits close to zero.
    Cash in the bank exists to pay future debt not to buy players. I wonder how Spurs will operate in this regard and how they feel about investing in a new stadium at a time when ticket prices are (in real terms) falling?

  4. @ insideright

    For those of us not familiar with your previous posts what is the difference between Gross and Net debt ?

    What exactly are we netting off the £200m against ?

    I cant see how we have £3m debt and are paying £14m in interest – who did we get the loans with – Wonga ?

  5. As insideright says, Why isn’t stadium debt mentioned.
    I appreciate it’s now down to quite a manageable amount to service for us but 200m plus is 200m plus!

  6. Stop the Wenger Spin – although I can understand that you have not read all of the articles here on the finance of the club I think that before coming in to discuss a finance post you ought to do a little research on finance. Gross and net are every day terms in economics discussion – Insideright might want to take time to explain them to you, but I’ll limit myself to one: your rather insulting comment about getting a loan from Wonga.

    And my apologies to everyone else who has been following the story as we have laid it out these past nine years. Especially anyone with a mortgage.

    Arsenal borrowed the money to develop the stadium and arranged, as I am sure Tottenham will have done, to pay the interest not in equal measure but loaded towards the end of the repayment terms. This is similar to getting a mortgage on a house. You might borrow £100,000 for a house, which means perhaps paying £5000 interest in the first year. But you also have to pay the loan off, which over 20 years is also £5000 a year.

    Of course by the 20th year you only have £5000 left in borrowing so the interest on that year would be just £250 if you paid the interest just on the loan.

    What the mortgage companies do is add all the interest due across the 20 years and all the repayment of the capital due, and equal it out so you pay the same amount each year. So in the final year you owe just £5000 but your interest is still £5000. It looks like 100% interest but across the 20 years it is actually 5%. If you sell early, adjustments are made. Buy a house on a 20 year mortgage and sell after 3 years and you’ll find that all you’ve done is paid interest. That’s how it works.

    Hope that helps when you come to buy a house.

  7. Notoverthehill, thanks for the possible explanation for City’s lower wage bill. It just shows that they have been “managing” the books and this perhaps, calls for a bit more scrutiny, rather than the regulators turning a blind eye because of the huge investments around the City, occasioned by oil money.

    StopTheWengerSpin, gross debt refers to the balance of total (in this case, interest bearing) debt of the club, at any particular time/period. Net debt refers to the portion of the total debt outstanding and (only where it is a case of liquidation) due for payment in the year/period under review, represented as the book value of a company’s gross debt less any cash and cash-like assets on the balance sheet. Net debt is a very important test of the state of things since it tells you how much debt is left if the company pays off all its indebtedness using its cash at bank or cash assets. Hence, it is deemed very relevant item in a club’s balance sheet. It doesn’t preclude the club paying up on interest on the full portion of the loan, hence interest can show a figure higher than the net.

    While Arsenal still has a large obligation on the total indebtedness, the club has been clever to manage the impact of interest obligations by spreading repayments equally over a very long tenure, at fixed rates, as Tony has tried to explain above.

  8. And temporary staff aside, permanent staff have to be paid as per London living wage (or whatever they call it). Our wages should be on the higher side.

  9. @StopTheWengerSpin,

    Guessing by your name you probably don’t share the saem view as me on Mr W.
    However, credit where it’s due I showered my monitor with coffee at the Wonga line.

    @ Tony, thanks for the hard work on this, although one question – if we did a big, big signing it would blow the way the debt figures that were represented here as it’s not shown as actual debt and cash in the bank, more as an offset mortgage type deal. Also as I am lead to believe (and I could well be wrong) I understood that we had some form of covenant regarding the stadium debt and keeping a large pile of cash in the bank in case we missed champions league and dropped in profitability.

    Without understanding this set up fully it’s hard to see exactly what we have got to spend on new players and contracts, and if we are able to compete against the oil boys.

    I’m never one to believe what the board say about how much we actually have to spend as there are always weasel words we don’t see (i.e. 100m – wages over contract – any new deals for existing players etc).

    Thanks again,

  10. Having taken a (bit more than) cursory look at the club’s financials for 2015/16, a few realities jump out at me:

    1. Losing out on Champions league next season is always going to be hurtful to the club’s financial outlook; however, this is assuaged by increased broadcast money in the EPL. Still, it will have been nice to have all what could be due to the club in the 17/18 year.
    2. With the heavy outlay on players (£93m on Xhaka, Mustafi and Lucas) at the start of 16/17 season, this will impact player amortization and naturally, our wage bill figures, when the financials for this year are published. I think the impact on cash reserves will be obvious, even if minimized by record broadcast monies for the year.
    3. There are misguided reports in the media that Arsenal have paid off their stadium debt, but the reality is that the debt incurred for the Emirates development remains at £233m gross, as at the period under review (15/16). While it is down significantly from the £411 million peak in 2008, it remains a heavy burden, requiring an annual payment of around £20 million, covering interest and repayment of the principal. Arsenal’s debt comprises long-term bonds that represent the “mortgage” on the stadium £194 million, derivatives £24 million and debentures (held by supporters) of £14 million. There is nothing wrong here since the repayment is well spread out, but it explains our high interest pay out figure of £14m.
    4. Another cost that had an impact on Arsenal’s 15/16 profit and loss account is player amortisation, reflecting the recent increased investment in transfers. This expense shot up from £22 million in 2011 to £59 million in 2016; this will expectedly, be higher given the acquisitions of 16/17 year. Arsenal’s figures are not the highest since big spending clubs have the highest charge outs on this item e.g. Manchester City £70 million and Chelsea £69 million in 2014/15; Manchester United’s is the highest at an incredible £88 million in 2015/16.
    5. With the above, and since revenues will be impacted in 17/18 season with No CL, Arsenal need to be aware of the Premier League’s Short Term Cost controls, which restrict the annual player wage cost increases to £7 million a year for the three years up to 2018/19 – except if funded by increases in revenue from sources other than Premier League broadcasting contracts.
    With the club under pressure to extend the contracts of Özil and Sánchez, this will be a challenge, given the limited opportunity to raise ticket prices. The other way out, being to improve on our commercial revenues, is threatened by fan apathy owing to protest actions of those who wanted the manager out; plus the restricted terms of our kit and sponsorship deals.
    Contrary to the popular view that Stan Kroenke is only greedy for money, and somehow, “benefits”from our failure to win more major trophies, neither he nor any director collects dividends. His company has also waived its entitlement to any fee for strategic and advisory services, worth £3 million the previous year. With his declaration that he wants to win the EPL and CL with Arsenal, maybe Kroenke is now willing to invest his own funds directly, for player purchases that will guarantee huge trophy wins and the attendant (no guarantees) deluge of sponsorship and other money from merchandise sales.

    The object of the pointers above is to show that while fans may clamour for the club to “spend big”, there is always need for caution because, with Arsenal’s philosophy of spending within the Club’s resources (rather than rely on owner’s windfalls), the club can ill afford errors in the market. Again, the management will always have an eye on the league’s cost control restrictions, even as it mulls over contract extensions for Ozil and Sanchez. In my considered view, we shall have to move on some players, including one (or both) of Ozil and Sanchez, to be able to cope with next season’s reduced revenues from the Europa league; our new acquisitions will have to be done wisely, read bargain buys, or free transfers, plus one or two big buys. I feel the squad can cope with the rigours of Europa league and the domestic trophy challenges. Alternative may be for Kroenke to turn sugar daddy and dole out!

    Of course, the club will know more than I do and all my submissions may be hogwash. There’s also the possibility that they take risks, knowing our sponsorship deals are due for renegotiation by 2019; what do I know?

  11. The issue with Kronke putting his money (as loan may be) into ARSENAL coffers is, then we should be ready and accept it without any objections when he withdraws the given amount (with interest also may be). Are we ready for it???…..

    I would argue, Kronke shouldnt invest a single penny on ARSENAL. Instead he should do the other work. Guide ARSENAL into commercial dominance and as a result help appreciate his share holding value.

    Missing out on CL has resulted in a 35 million loss, wich couldve funded some infrastructure development for youth and ladies.

  12. Not qualifying for CL does not incur a loss. It reduces relative income. There is a substantial income from Eiropa that makes up 20/30% of CL shortfall. It can grow if we progress. The key is a positive fan base. ‘They’ have cost us millions by being shits on horizon. It is best that we exhorcise their evil with some appropriate chanting.

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