Newcastle United has finally posted its 19/20 accounts, the last PL club to do so. Fashionably late as always. If you remember, this was the first season with Steve Bruce in charge and meant to be the last season of Mike Ashley’s tenure at NUFC. Richard Masters & co had other ideas.
Can you give a quick summary?
The headline figure is that NUFC made a loss of £22.5m. Doesn’t sound great but the club’s underlying finances are actually quite sound. Excluding the impact of Covid (and the extension of the accounting period by a month), NUFC would actually have reported a small profit of £1.1m.
Whilst the underlying finances are sound, there’s no doubt the club are stagnating and crying out for a takeover. We’ll look into this in a bit more detail later.
The accounts also gave some dire warnings for the 20/21 finances so don’t expect a spending spree this summer. Or in other words, expect the usual.
How do the finances compare with the previous year?
Newcastle turned a £34.7m profit in 18/19 into a £22.5m loss in 19/20. We’ll look more closely into the reasons for that change but the movements are summarised in the table below.
That’s pretty grim reading?
Not really. The finances of all clubs have suffered as a result of Covid. Comparisons to previous years are therefore fairly meaningless. What provides a better insight is a comparison to other clubs. NUFC’s loss was comparatively light relative to the rest of the PL (see table below). Ashley no doubt noting that Everton’s eye-watering loss of £140m secured them a League Table position exactly one place above Newcastle!
So how does our income compare?
NUFC generated the 8th highest income in the Premier League in 19/20. In the 19/20 Deloitte Money League table, this would have given us the 21st highest income in the world (for some reason, we didn’t submit our income). Higher than AC Milan, Ajax, Benfica and Valencia. Presumably this is why we’re able to attract the world’s most sought-after managers to the club.
Whilst the “big six” (apologies for using this term but you know who I mean) are out of sight in terms of income, we should be competing to be the best of the rest. There’s three elements to income – Match Day, Commercial and Broadcasting. Let’s look at each in turn.
First up, Match Day income.
Match day income dropped by £7.4m (or 30%). The accounts report that this drop was due to the fact that NUFC played their final 5 games behind closed doors and this undoubtedly had an impact.
But there’s also no doubt that attendances dropped in 19/20 prior to the global epidemic hitting which resulted in the unprecedented release of 10,000 free season tickets from 28/12/19.
The final average attendance was 48,248 but before the release of those free season tickets, NUFC were averaging 46,049. This was a drop of over 5,000 (or 10%) from the previous season so it’s no surprise that Match Day income dropped off as it did.
Despite the drop, NUFC still generated the 8th highest Match Day income in the PL. But they are constantly slipping down this income stream ranking.
When Ashley bought NUFC they had the 3rd highest attendances in the PL. By standing still, they have lost this comparative advantage against other PL clubs. Both Everton (new stadium) and Aston Villa (stadium extension) are likely to surpass NUFC’s Match Day income over the next few years.
Broadcasting income dropped by £17.8m (or 14%). All PL clubs suffered a drop in this income stream due to a rebate given to the broadcasters as a result of the delayed conclusion of the 19/20 season. In addition, the number of NUFC games broadcast live dropped by 4 from 19 to 15.
Commercial income dropped marginally by £0.3m (or 1%). Not a huge drop in the circumstances but I personally think this income stream has come to represent the failure (in financial terms) of Ashley’s tenure.
I don’t buy into much of the ‘conspiracy’ stuff that I see on social media about Ashley. He doesn’t take money out of the club (except his loan) and season ticket money does not go straight into his pocket, it goes to the club.
But where he should be held to account (and isn’t) is his catastrophic failure to grow the club’s finances, particularly Commercial Income. This is the one area where Ashley and the directors at the club could and should make a real difference.
But the commercial income is actually lower now than it was when Ashley bought the club 14 years ago! In any of Ashley’s other businesses, this would be considered unacceptable and the CEO removed. I suspect even Ashley will be embarrassed by the lack of growth in this income stream. Again, a comparison against other clubs provides the best insight here.
We generate less commercial income than Brighton! Burnley, Wolves and Southampton have more lucrative deals with their shirt sponsors. The “big six” have managed to grow their commercial income by £100m-£230m since 2007. When Moshiri bought Everton in Feb 2016, they generated £21m in commercial activities. In 19/20, they generated £75.9m, growth of nearly £55m in 3 years. I could go on but my blood pressure and keyboard probably won’t thank me for it.
For a self-sustaining club, maximising Commercial Revenue is absolutely vital. This essentially allows us to compete with the clubs outside the “big six”. I mentioned earlier that the club is crying out for a takeover and this income stream essentially demonstrates this. We desperately need owners with a new dynamism, ambition and investment to stop the club treading water. And we need it before any more clubs pass us. And they are currently queuing up to do so.
Revenue was boosted by a £26.3m profit on player sales in 19/20. Essentially this was the sale of Ayoze Perez to Leicester for £30m. We also bought Joelinton and Saint Maximum for £60m. How does that translate to a profit on player sales? For technical accounting reasons which will take too long to explain!
So that’s revenue. What about costs?
The main costs for any club are the player wages. Let’s take a look at those first.
Wages and Salaries
The wage bill rose by £24m (25%) in 19/20. Part of this increase was as a result of the extra month added to the accounting period thus covering 13 months. Removing this extra month, the increase would have been only £15m.
To remove the extra month distortion and for a useful comparison against other clubs, the table below shows a ranking based on the average weekly wage.
It is not the comparison against the “big six” which is important here. It’s the comparison against those middle ranking clubs that we are competing against. Whilst we pay more wages than Wolves & Burnley, we lag some way behind Everton and Leicester.
Clubs generally aim for an income to wages ratio of 60% or less. Newcastle’s ratio has increased from 55% to 79%.
The other main cost to the club is amortisation (transfer fees spread over the contract period). This is a good proxy for the level of transfer spend by clubs. Newcastle’s amortisation increased by £9m to £48m in 19/20. This increase was driven by the extra month cost in the accounting period (about £4m) and the signings of Joelinton and Saint-Maximin.
In addition to the amortisation, there was an extra £11.1m expense for “impairment” which essentially writes down a player’s value. No specifics given in the accounts but possibly relates to Muto or Atsu or ……….. etc.
The amortisation in the accounts is reflected by the cost of the squad. Newcastle’s squad cost increased in 19/20 by over £55m but still languished in the bottom 6 relative to other clubs. I’ve been a very vocal critic of Steve Bruce but the evidence suggests that he’s over-achieved with this NUFC squad. On a similar vein, Benitez undoubtedly performed miracles with what he was forced to work with.
What does this all mean to the debt?
NUFC’s gross debt fell from £112m to £108m which is basically the outstanding loan owed to Ashley. NUFC’s debt is the 11th highest in the PL but unlike just about every other football club owner, Ashley refuses to capitalise this loan (essentially writing it off).
Newcastle is one of the few self-sustaining clubs in the PL but there’s no doubt that they’re stagnating. They need a fresh start with new owners. Those new owners would take over a financially sound club but with absolutely massive growth potential. Let’s hope it happens.
Sooner rather than later.
ANDREW TROBE – @tfAndy1892
For those who want to read more analysis on the Newcastle United accounts we would recommend:
Kieran Maguire – Price of Football – click here