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Annual Review of Football Finance Reveals Disturbing News
In an earlier article (Pssst, here’s £60m for your soccer team….. ) I posted in my blog, I mentioned that the beautiful game was in decline for those with a lot of money to spare. An increasing number of Premiership clubs have been taken over by foreign hands: Manchester United is owned by Americans, Liverpool and Aston Villa, West Ham United by Icelanders, Fulham by Egyptians whose primary interests are in retail, Chelsea. A Russian with a personal fortune of £9 billion, who is obsessed with winning and could earn much more from trading oil and minerals. As of this writing, we also have the former Prime Minister of Thailand wanting a piece of the action by taking over the reins of Manchester City. Is the Premiership slowly becoming an expensive playground for the super-rich? I’m afraid the answer is yes. And how true this can be, according to the world’s top-four auditors Deloitte & Touche’s latest annual review of soccer. The Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance, released on 31 May 2007, revealed the following shocking financial facts:
1) The combined wages of the English Premier League are expected to surpass the £1 billion mark for the first time since the competition’s formal inauguration in 1992 – 1993. For the 2005–2006 season, twenty teams’ wages rose to £854 million. compared to “only” £168 million in 2005. Isn’t it wonderful to be a soccer player instead of working a desk-bound job?
2) Wait, the rich picks get better as we can expect the first £200,000-a-week players in the EPL to emerge before 2010. Currently, the top earners in the Premiership are Ukrainian Andriy Shevchenko and German Michael Ballack (both Chelsea), who are believed to be banking at least £130,000 each week. I think even if you are a proven player like them, you should only get basic salary and decent performance bonus. Otherwise, soccer clubs will be forced to charge higher ticket prices to fans to cover operating costs. It is the best way to keep the business running when the on-pitch results are not so bright and also helps to motivate and reward the players and management to win.
3) The 20 clubs in the top division had a combined turnover of £1.4 billion two seasons ago (2005 – 2006), which is expected to rise to £1.8 billion for the 2007 – 2008 season. I have reason to suspect that most of this revenue comes from booming Asian economies, where the nouveau-riche are willing to pay astronomical sums to catch their soccer heroes playing “live” in an off-season game.
4) Considering the money spent by teams in the lower divisions in an attempt to break into the Premiership, the total loans taken out are a staggering £2 billion. For next season, there will be a new 3-year TV contract worth £2.7 billion, which will be the catalyst for massive wage inflation and servicing of such debts. New TV revenue – including domestic and international rights – is around £300 million extra per season over the next 3 years. What I see is that this is going to be a vicious cycle: teams secure loans to enter the top division and make more money on TV, which is then used to service the loans. And yet with reduced revenues, they will again be forced to borrow heavily.
Mark my words, the growing financial support involved in the soccer scene will one day get out of hand. And those who will bear the brunt of the fall-out will be the fans themselves, as they are already being paid by soccer clubs for higher ticket prices, more expensive replica jerseys, event flyers and even those who can’t afford trips. Stadiums will not be spared – they are likely to be charged more for pay-per-view TV for games broadcast “live” or even on a delayed basis. Ultimately, I think more top-level clubs will be owned by foreign hands. Although these foreigners are usually super rich and provide instant cash flow, they may not represent the best interests of the soccer fraternity. After all, they are probably businessmen by nature. Who can guarantee that these clubs aren’t just cash cows to be milked and fans aren’t being taken for a nasty ride? It is obvious to me that the foreign owners have had considerable sporting success as well as financial gain. I think it is high time the British government or even the supreme governing body FIFA stepped in and started regulating such transactions before the situation worsens.
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