Manchester City: Some girls are bigger than others

Introduction

No trophies, third in the league, and the costs of embedding a new managerial regime may have had some thinking City would struggle financially in 2016/17

The headline figures are mixed, income is up significantly, profit before interest down 80%, but the club claims to have no debt and is self sufficient.

Direct comparatives with the previous year’s profit and loss account figures are slightly distorted by City having a 13 month period of account for 2016/17, so bear this in mind when looking at growth compared to 2015/16. There’s nothing sinister in our opinion in changing the year end to 30 June.

Income

Clubs have three sources of income.

Matchday

Matchday income at City fell slightly, mainly due to a relatively early knockout in the Champions League. The expansion of the Etihad in recent years has allowed City to generate £50m plus a season from matchdays, but this is still way behind United (£111m) and Arsenal (£100m).

City have always priced their tickets towards the lower end of the market, which is great for fans. Initiatives such as the ‘Tunnel Club’, where (presumably corporate) fans get to sit behind the dugout and see the players in the tunnel pre and post match show that City are trying to extract more from the prawn sandwich brigade.

Matchday income was only 11% of City’s total revenues. You would perhaps expect this from a small club in the Premier League such as Crystal Palace, but it does seem low for a behemoth such as City. United had 19% of income and Arsenal 24% from this source.

Broadcasting

Broadcasting income was up 26% and tops £200m for the first time. This is mainly due to the impact of the new domestic TV deal with BT/Sky. UEFA TV monies actually fell by £13m due to City being knocked out of the last 16 round of the Champions League compared to the semi-final the previous year.

Compared to their closest rivals who have reported to date, at £204m City are slightly ahead of both United (£194m) and Arsenal (£199m)

Any growth in TV income in 2017/18 will be dependent upon City’s progress in the Champions League, as the domestic deal runs for three seasons. Even if City win the Premier League they will only receive about an extra £4m in terms of merit payments.

Commercial

Commercial income at City normally causes Arsene Wenger, an intelligent man who is nonetheless known for whining at events at the Etihad both on and off the field, to start muttering ‘Financial Doping’ as his handlers reach for the smelling salts.

This income source rose over 22% to £218 million. The reason why eyebrows are raised in relation to City in this regard is the club’s commercial links with related parties to the Abu Dhabi owners.

City’s critics accuse the club of negotiating deals at above market rates, overinflating income and therefore allowing the club to pay more for wages and transfers whilst complying with Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations.

City have fallen foul of FFP issues in the past, but we suspect they have been very careful to adhere to the rules in the present climate of UEFA inspectors.

Can clubs manipulate their finance to comply with the rules? The answer in our opinion is an unequivocal yes, but that is the subject of a separate blog post. Are City guilty of such behaviour? We have no idea, but expect City to not be subject to any UEFA sanctions (the Premier League’s own FFP rules are much easier to satisfy than those of UEFA).

City’s commercial income is still some way behind that of United (£275.5m) but United are in a league of their own when it comes to global appeal, and their commercial department negotiates deals accordingly.

City are way ahead of Arsenal (£125.4m) in this income source, which is perhaps a testament to Arsenal’s inconsistent appeal to sponsors and their commercial department’s rather disappointing performance.

Costs

The main costs for a club are player wages and player amortisation (transfer fee costs spread over the life of the contract).

City’s wage costs, which had been under relative control for three seasons, rose over a third to £264.1 million. This compares to United (£263.5m) and Arsenal (£199.4m). When Sheik Mansour acquired City, the club had to play over the odds in wages to attract high quality players, as Champions League appearances were not in the offing. This explains why wages were so high in 2013.

Clearly recruiting Pep Guardiola and his team, new signings and improved contracts for some squad members came at a cost.

Despite the increase in wages, City’s wage expense as a proportion of total income, which has risen in the year, is a healthy 56%, although notably higher than United (45%) and Arsenal (47%).

Amortisation charges are up nearly 30% to £121.7 million.

‘Other’ costs rose 23% to £104.3 million. It’s not clear what has driven such an increase.

One thing that may have Arsene Wenger once again being only allowed to eat with a spoon is directors’ pay. This is in the City accounts at a zero figure.

City’s parent company, City Football Group Limited, (which is not subject to FFP as such, and has not yet published its results) had ‘key management compensation’ (presumably director pay) of £4.4 million in 2015/16. Such behaviour prompts City’s critics to accuse the club of transferring some costs to other outposts of the City group empire to ensure the club of complying with FFP.

Whilst City have no direct bank debt, they do show an interest cost in relation to the Etihad stadium. Whilst not wanting to bore you with accounting dullardness, because the Etihad is rented on a 250 year lease, which is effectively its useful life, the stadium is treated as being an asset of the club, funded by a loan from the council.

Offset against the above costs is gains on profit sales of £34.6 million (see below for more detail).

Profit

Profit is an abstract concept, in theory it should simply be income less costs. In practice there are a range of profits quoted, depending on which costs are included.

City are quoting a profit of £1.1 million for the year. This is however after taking into account gains on player disposals. Whilst we expect to see clubs making a profit on player sales each year due to the way player signings are treated in the accounts, this figure is volatile as it depends on individual player disposals.

Excluding player disposals, City’s EBIT (which is ‘recurring’ profit before interest and tax) was a loss of £30.2million, compared to a profit of £2.8m the previous season.

Adding back the non-cash expenses in the form of depreciation and amortisation gives an EBITDA profit of £105 million, which is very close to the previous year’s £109m. United made an EBITDA profit of £200m and Arsenal £145m, reflecting City’s relative generosity in terms of wages compared to the two other clubs.

City had a negative tax expense in 2016/17.

Player activity

City spent £203.5 million on the likes of Stones, Jesus, Gundogan and Sane in 2016/17 (what about Nolito and Claudio Bravo some of you will of course also cry? We’ve not mentioned them as they are, in the words of former Manchester legend Frank Sidebottom, a bit bobbins, and we don’t want to embarrass Pep, especially as my wife fancies him).

If these players are each on five year contracts then this gives an extra amortisation cost of £40.6 million (£203.5/5), which ties into the cost analysis above.

In terms of disposals, City sold players for £51 million, to give a net spend for 2016/17 of £153m.

Hidden in the footnotes to the City accounts are a couple of interesting figures (interesting only to those who are still reading this tedious summary we suspect). The first is contingent liabilities. This is the sum City have to pay to players and former clubs if certain achievements (appearances, trophies, international caps etc.) are met. This is £111 million at the end of June 2017.

City had a spending spree in Summer 2017, mainly on signing Mendy, Walker, Bernardo Silva, Ederson and Danilo. A number of players left the club too, but the accounts reveal a net spend of £161 million in the window.

Summary

City’s owners are not motivated by making profits, so the breakeven in the year is more to do with keeping the beancounters at UEFA happy more than bringing a smile to face of Sheik Mansour.

Their business model in relation to being part of a group with tentacles in many clubs across the globe will fuel idle gossip and accusations from the club’s detractors.

For those who think that all this financial analysis is a load of old cobblers, there’s a case for saying, just watch the football, which is possibly the best seen in the Premier League since its inception (although of course no trophies are won in November).

Financial Summary

Key figures from the accounts shown below

 

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