It may seem an unusual thing to say, but we feel a bit sorry for many Leeds fans. They’ve been shafted more times than Linda Lovelace in Deep Throat and were once so desperate for an owner they even cheered when Ken Bates took over the club.
2016/17 proved to Massimo Cellino’s reign of jaw dropping entertainment at Elland Road, as the colourful (
crooked) Italian sold initially 50%, then the whole of the club to fellow Italian Andrea Radrizziani.
Fans were initially excited about the change of control, as Cellino had been tight with the cash (something that most Yorkshire folk would usually approve of) during his time at the club.
Summary of key figures
Income £34.1 million (up 13%)
Broadcasting income £7.6 million (up 45%)
Wages £20.7 million (up 14%)
Loss before player sales £8.8 million (up 26%)
Player purchases £6.8 million
Player sales £9.0 million
Borrowings £25.1 million
In the Championship the amount of total income is effectively split between those clubs that do and do not receive parachute payments.
Leeds generated the highest earnings of the non-parachute payment receiving clubs, but this was not enough to get the club into a playoff position, although Brighton and Huddersfield, both of whom were not in receipt of parachute payments, were promoted, and Sheffield Wednesday made the playoffs.
Only Newcastle (surely Mike Ashley has nothing to hide?) and recently sold Barnsley have yet to announce their results for 2016/17. Most clubs are showing higher income than in the previous season. The average income of the 22 clubs that have reported to date is £28.6 million. This compares to an average of £22.9 million the previous season.
The main reason for the increase in overall income is due to a combination of higher parachute payments, a new TV deal in the Premier League, which drips down to the Championship in what are called ‘Solidarity Payments. Championship clubs earn about £4.3 million a year from solidarity payments, plus their earnings from the Football League TV deal which are worth a minimum of a further £2 million. Championship clubs also pick up £100,000 for each home game broadcast on Sky, and £10,000 for each away game.
The English Football League (EFL) negotiated a flat percentage of all future TV deals with the Premier League (PL) a couple of years ago. This at the time seemed to be a great deal, but subsequently the PL sold its domestic rights for 10% less in 2019-22 than the current three-year arrangement generates.
Like all clubs Leeds earn their income from three sources, matchday, broadcasting and commercial/sponsorship.
Leeds have shown growth in the all three income areas, but to give some context, their income of £34.1 million is still nearly £8 million less than their final season in the Premier League in 2003/4, when income was £41.9 million.
Matchday income in 2016/17 was up 24%, as the average attendance increased by 6,000 to 27,698 as the club just failed to reach the Championship playoffs. Cellino’s promise of a 25% reduction in season ticket prices for the following season if the club failed to reach the playoffs also contributed to this increase. This could have a knock-on effect on matchday income for 2017/18.
The club have kept prices relatively static for a few years and generated £367 per fan from matchday sales.
Leeds therefore had the third largest matchday income total in the division, although we anticipate this falling to fourth when Newcashley United finally publish their results.
Broadcast income was up 45% to £7.6 million. The baseline figure for clubs in the Championship is about £6.3 million, plus an additional £100,000 for every home, and £10,000 for every away game that is broadcast live on Sky. Leeds are always popular with Sky as they generate decent viewing figures.
The impact of parachute payments for the top six clubs in the chart is very evident. Recently relegated Norwich earned £7.50 from broadcasting for every £1 earned by non-parachute payment clubs.
Leeds commercial income fell slightly but is still an impressive £16.4 million. This figure is distorted to a degree since 2015, when Massimo Cellino threw one of his hissy fits and took the catering income in house (it had previously been outsourced), which was responsible for nearly all of the increase from 2015 to 2016 in this area.
The main costs at a football club are player related, wages and transfer fee amortisation.
Leeds wages increased by 14% in 2016/17, as new contracts for existing players plus some fresh signings increased the costs.
Leeds wage bill places it in the bottom third of clubs in the Championship in 2016/17. Whilst it won’t surprise fans that clubs in receipt of parachute payments are paying out big money still in player wages, we suspect a few Yorkshire eyebrows will be raised when they see their club behind the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, Bristol City and Birmingham (although with ‘Triffic’ Harry Redknapp in charge of the latter for a while in 2016/17, perhaps not so surprised by that club paying out more money to players).
For a club in the Championship to be paying wages that are effectively the same as five seasons previously is unusual. Most clubs get sucked into the vortex of trying to attract new players with more money and this becomes self-perpetuating.
Leeds paid out £61 in wages for every £100 in income. This was the second lowest ratio in the Championship, and Reading’s would have been far higher had they not been in receipt of parachute payments. This figure has fallen significantly under Cellino, partly due to the increase in catering income figure but also because he was clearly keen on keeping costs as low as possible with a view to selling the club to a new owner.
Over half the clubs in the Championship pay out more money in wages than they generate in income. This is under the auspices of Financial Fair Play (FFP). It is scary to think what would happen if FFP didn’t exist.
Amortisation is how clubs deal with transfer fees in the profit and loss account. When a player signs for a club the transfer fee is spread over the life of the contract. Therefore, when Leeds signed Kemar Roofe from Oxford United for £3 million on a four year contract the amortisation charge was £750,000 a year for four years (£3m/4). The amortisation fee in the profit and loss account therefore includes all players who have been signed for a fee (assuming they are still in their initial contract).
Leeds’s total amortisation charge has risen steadily in recent years, reflecting the brakes slowly being removed from the transfer budget. They are in the top half of the division in relation to this cost, but some way behind clubs with parachute payments.
If the amortisation costs are added to wages, then total player costs for Leeds in 2016/17 were £76 for every £100 of income. This again suggests the club is relatively tight (no doubt Leeds fans will say ‘careful’ rather than ‘tight’ in terms of spending whatever it takes in terms of player investment to get back into the Premier League. There are many clubs who are spending £140 plus on this area.
One cost that Leeds have which is not common to all clubs is rent. The club paid £2.1 million in rent during 2016/17 for Elland Road and other facilities. The club did say that they had repurchased Elland Road on 28 June 2017, but there is no sign of this in the accounts or the strategic review of the year which was signed off by Radrizzani on 2nd March 2018.
A further look at the club website reveals that Greenfield Investment Pte Ltd, also owned by Radrizzani, and based in Hong Kong (we think) , are the actual owners of Elland Road, so it’s not quite as transparent as it initially seems. Greenfield are themselves owned by Aser Group pte Ltd in Singapore.
How much rent is being charged by this company to Leeds United Football Club Limited has not been revealed, however a note to the account suggests that rent will fall from over £2.1 million a year to about £760,000, which could mean extra money for the manager to spend on players and wages.
Leeds sources suggest that the rent is for Thorpe Arch rather than Elland Road itself.
Profits and losses
Profits (or more commonly for non-Premier League football clubs losses) are income less costs. The bad news for Leeds is that the club lost a lot of money last season from day to day trading.
The good news is that they managed to sell Lewis Cook to Bournemouth, which brought in a profit of nearly £9 million, which offset the operating losses.
Operating losses are income less the running costs of the club (wages, maintenance, insurance, amortisation etc. and they are before deducting interest costs and player sale profits. In 2016/17 this worked out as £8.8 million, or £169,000 a week. This is slightly higher than the previous season, but still a lot of money to find on a regular basis. These losses are before taking into consideration the one-off cost player write down of £332,000, for someone who was signed for a fee but subsequently turned out to be a bit shite Christian Benteke. We don’t know enough about Leeds to know who the player(s) might be, but Leeds fans will no doubt have a few suggestions.
The previous season Leeds had one-off costs of nearly £4 million in legal and other fees as Cellino fell out with kit suppliers Kappa, previous employees, Sky TV, the Football League and anyone else who didn’t share the enlightened views of the Italian tax evader.
Being in the Championship is tough financially, and this is reflected in Leeds losses over the past few years.
Their total losses for the last five seasons are nearly £56 million, and this excludes one off costs of £6.4 million during that period too.
Fortunately for Leeds the club have managed to sell players on a regular basis at a profit of £25 million during this period, but it still leaves a substantial loss.
Under FFP rules, Championship clubs can make a maximum FFP loss of £39 million over three years in the Championship. Leeds have a pre-tax loss of just £10.2 million over the three-year period, helped by profits on player sales of £21.5 million over that period.
Additionally, some costs, such as infrastructure, academy and community schemes, are excluded from the FFP calculations. Leeds have a category two academy, which costs about £1.5 million a year to run according to our sources, so this, combined with other allowable costs, means that Leeds easily are within the FFP limit for the three years ending June 2017.
Assuming that Leeds have not gone crazy in terms of higher wage deals in 2017/18, they should be in a much stronger position than most clubs in the division in the forthcoming transfer windows.
This is because many clubs have spent big and gambled on promotion this season (2017/18) and will have to scale back investment in the next few windows to ensure FFP compliance. There is a caveat here, this will all depend on the extent to which the owner is willing to back the Leeds manager in the transfer market during the next couple of windows.
The accountants treat player trading in a weird way in the financials. We’ve already shown that when a player is signed, his transfer fee is spread over the life of the contract. When the player is sold, the profit is shown immediately, and it based on the player’s accounting value, not the original transfer fee.
This creates erratic and volatile figures in the profit and loss account.
If we instead focus on the actual purchase and sales, the following arises
Over the last five years Leeds have bought players for £26.3 million and generated sales of £27.1 million. This is before the sale of Chris Wood to Burnley in summer 2017.
If Leeds are promoted to the Premier League there are additional transfer fees of £6.3 million payable, as well as player bonuses of over £16 million.
Debts to and from the club
Trying to make out the extent of Leeds debts is tricky. The easy bit is player transfers, where the club is owed £7.8 million (likely to be Bournemouth for Cook) and owe other clubs about £3.9 million.
The club is owed a mysterious £2.3 million in the form of ‘other debtors’ that the club is pursuing through the courts. Who this party is we don’t know, although Leeds fans will no doubt be able to point the finger at the party involved, and that finger is mainly being pointed at former owners GFH, who apparently have some contested debts. Whilst the outcome of the dispute is uncertain, one this is guaranteed, the lawyers will make plenty of brass from the dispute.
The club borrowed £16.5 million in the year, mainly from the owner, although £5 million of this was converted into shares. Total borrowings look to be about £25 million of which £14.5 million is to the owner.
The Cellino regime of chaos ending was a positive for Leeds in 2016/17. New owner Andrea Radrizzani had a huge amount of initial goodwill which has evaporated to a degree as the club has dropped from top of the table to nowhere in the past few months. This, coupled with the new club crest which turned the club into a laughing stock has meant that the upcoming summer is an opportunity to rebuild bridges with the fan base.
The good news is that the club is in an excellent position to invest heavily in the player market due to being significantly under the FFP loss limit. The big question is whether the owner will be prepared to dig deep and spend to bring in the calibre of player required for Leeds to be promotion contenders in 2018/19.