By Tony Attwood
We were wondering which clubs in the Premier League have the biggest debt – and whether as a result any of them were up for sale.
An article in Sports Brief suggests that they know what is going on, and here are the debt figures they come up with for the ten most indebted clubs.
- Chelsea F.C – £1.38 billion
- Tottenham Hotspurs (as they are very amusingly called in the article)- £726 million
- Manchester United £424m
- Brighton and Hove Albion: £360m
- Newcastle United £238m
- Leicester City £237m
- Liverpool £232m
- West Ham United £89m
- Southampton: £62m
- Everton: £58m
But does that mean they could all be up for sale?
Chelsea is owned by American billionaire Todd Boehly and a consortium of investors, and by and large they don’t seem to have a clue as to what they are doing. Their biggest problems are a) they are still stuck in Stamford Bridge and seem to have no way of re-working the “new stadium next door” project and b) they don’t know much about running a football club.
But with that level of debt they clearly owe too much to let it fail – in that if Chelsea did default on its debts the club would die and they would lose whatever money they have put in. What they need to do is a Newcastle-type deal and sell it to Iran, Iraq, Russia or Kuwait. If one of those would take it off their hands, they could be all right – except maybe not any of those with dubious politics. So Kuwait maybe.
Tottenham have a problem which was meant to be their solution: the stadium. I suspect that the financial plans included a hefty chunk of money from a ground sponsor, and the winning of a few trophies. But instead, it looks like Tottenham could be doing what Arsenal did after building the new stadium – pottering around in fourth for quite a few years. Arsenal were saved by Wenger being the master of the FA Cup (remember he won it more times than anyone else in history). Winning the cup doesn’t by itself solve financial problems but each win includes seven games that otherwise might not have happened (that’s almost another fifth of a season’s income) and lots of good publicity.
Manchester United’s problem is that the shareholders’ income from the club taken in dividends is staggering, and the owners need to sell the club in a way that guarantees that extraordinary income for the rest of their lives. That means not just selling the club for a lot, but a lot more than that. And just when you need a multi-billionaire there doesn’t seem to be one.
Brighton are paid for by a fan who made and makes a fortune from gambling, and his syndicate has been successfully making money for a sustained period of time. As of October 2022, the owner’s total tournament winnings exceeded $3,800,000.
But Brighton’s debts are $434.76 million, so the buying of Brighton also looks likely to be a gamble. He will need to sell at some stage.
Newcastle United need not detain us. Only a coup in Saudi Arabia could harm them.
Leicester City might be in financial trouble as their long-term financial stability is backed by the Srivaddhanaprabha family. Certainly, the club’s clever on-the-pitch tactics which Untold revealed, have all unravelled. We wait to see what tactics (football or financial) they come up with next. They are currently just three points above the relegation zone.
In the last transfer window they spent something like £15m and received from sales £75m – that suggests a continuing need to give money back to the owners rather than the investment in the future they urgently need.
Everton’s odd state was revealed by an article in the Guardian which said, “Today, the majority of Everton’s current external loans – largely secured on property around Goodison Park – have been taken out with a company called Rights and Media Funding Limited (RMFL), a small player in the world of financing that has also lent money to West Ham United [and] Nottingham Forest…”
The Guardian’s piece then added, in relation to the lenders “…while it has two directors, the company does not possess a single employee, according to its latest set of unaudited accounts. Nor does the lender have a website, a phone number or a Financial Conduct Authority registration.”
West Ham are up for sale, and it is surprising that no one has bought the club, given that they have a ground that was given to them for 99 years by Boris Johnson. Why does no one want them? Could it be because the ground is a liability not an asset?
Southampton were purchased by investment firm Sport Republic in a £100m deal, and they appear to be owned by a Chinese businessman Gao Jisheng, so what they are up to is anyone’s guess.
But if you want to buy a football club – most of those above are probably willing to accept a decent offer…
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