Big spending Premier League clubs record first loss since 2012 season

15 May 2017

According to a new report from Big Four professional services group Deloitte, Premier League football clubs have recorded a combined pre-tax loss of £110 million; the first such loss since the 2012/13 season.

The New York head-quartered group’s research found that despite colossal revenues of £3.6 billion – up 9% from 2014/15 (£3.4 billion) – a combination of increasing amortisation debt charges and record transfer spending, meant the EPL clubs still lost money. The League’s collective wage-bill also continued to climb, growing by 12% to £2.3 billion.

The shock fairy-tale victory of Leicester City, last year’s unlikely champions, meanwhile undoubtedly also played a role in stimulating the English transfer market. Their squad, assembled for £54.4 million, prompted England’s elite clubs to spend more than ever before in the pre-season transfer window. Exemplary of this were Manchester United, whose current squad became the most expensive ever assembled according to the CIES Football Observatory, after a summer spending spree took their collective recruitment bill to over £600 million. Most infamously this included the world record £93.2 million spent recruiting Paul Pogba, as new manager Jose Mourinho set out to assure a return to lucrative Champions League football in the 2017-18 season.

English clubs make up half of the world’s top 10 most expensive squads currently, with Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool each attempting to keep pace with United. Tottenham, Everton, West Ham and Southampton also make it into the top 20, while incumbent champions Leicester are down in 27th on £114 million – having still doubled their own collective price-tag.

Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

No concern yet

While this surprising loss might give any other industry pause for thought though, Deloitte expect that the league’s new three-year broadcast rights deal will see a return to record profits for clubs the 2016/17 season, in spite of these early figures.

Adam Bull, a senior consultant in the sports business section of Deloitte, commented that the mass spending of the Premier League is well backed up by the forecast TV rights windfall: “We have already seen to some extent the impact of the current broadcast rights deal, with clubs’ combined transfer expenditure over the course of the 2016/17 season reaching almost £1.4 billion – eclipsing the previous record set in 2015/16 by one-third and far exceeding any other league in world football.”

The long-term viability of this may still be in doubt however – with Deloitte’s Big Four professional services rival KPMG recently publishing its own study, suggesting Premier League clubs offer the “worst value for fans in Europe.” As clubs also pass their huge costs onto their supporters, KPMG placed five Premier League clubs – Arsenal – who faced a toilet-roll protest from visiting Bayern Munich fans earlier in 2017 at their entry prices – Chelsea, Tottenham, Everton and Liverpool – in a “red zone”, for expensive tickets measured against the value of their enterprise. European giants Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich meanwhile, the three “most valuable” clubs - were all positioned in the “green zone”. While for now the clubs in the red zone seem capable of counting on fan revenue to also part fund their spending then, growing unrest amongst fans priced out of attendance could jeopardise what remains an essential part of their revenue.

Beyond the lofty broadcast revenue of the English Premier League meanwhile, research from consultancy firm BDO recently suggested that many teams outside the UK’s highest level are in a more financially precarious state. BDO found that 23% of English Championship clubs and 40% of Scottish Premiership teams believed their finances need urgent attention, or are a cause for real concern – evoking memories of 2008 FA Cup winners Portsmouth and former Scottish champions Glasgow Rangers’ respective periods of administration in 2012.


More news on


Champions League glory hard to buy for football’s economic elite

15 March 2019

The thrills and spills of knock-out football can still be one of the sport’s great levelling forces, with the Champions League’s second round having shown that the biggest spenders aren’t always able to buy their way to glory. While a league format broadly favours the squad depth of the beautiful game’s richest teams, half of the tournament’s wealthier teams exited in the first one-on-one elimination round.

As the Champions League burst back into life in February, following an agonising winter break, only two of the 16 teams re-launching their Champions League last-16 bid were from outside the so-called Big Five football leagues. With the exceptions of Portuguese champions FC Porto and Dutch footballing powerhouse AFC Ajax, teams from the world’s biggest spending leagues monopolised the second round. As outlined by analysis from KPMG’s Football Benchmark, the Premier League was represented by four teams, with three clubs come from La Liga and the Bundesliga respectively, while Serie A and Ligue 1 both retained two clubs.

This followed a grimly predictable group phase, which had seen the two most expensive squads progress in all but one of the eight collections of four teams. The one team to buck that trend, Ajax, had last won Europe’s premier club competition in 1995, but those halcyon days have long since faded into memory, and Ajax had failed to progress beyond the group stage in 13 years. With the second youngest squad in the tournament, what now seems to be an awakening football giant had some shocks in store for the second round too.

Group Stage values

Despite an impressive Europa League run which saw the team reach the final two years ago, Ajax had not progressed in a Champions League knockout stage tie since the 1996-97 campaign. That all changed this time, as Erik ten Hag’s men overturned a first leg deficit to trounce Real Madrid 5-3 on aggregate. Having felt hard done by in a 2-1 defeat at the Johan Cruijff ArenA, the Amsterdam club cruised to a 4-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabéu, a result which saw the tournament’s fourth most expensive squad crash out to the third cheapest remaining team.

The supremely expensive team, which had won three Champions Leagues on the trot, had crashed out in spectacular style. For many footballing purists, the end of the seemingly invincible Galacticos would have been enough to restore some of their faith in the sport – but there would soon be more schadenfreude to revel in, as a succession of Europe’s most bank-breakingly costly teams would soon join Los Blancos in their exit.

The pick of the bunch was unquestionably Paris Saint-Germain, who forfeited a 2-0 first leg advantage to somehow crash out of the Champions League. The team, who are fast becoming known as the foremost bottlers in Europe, faced a grim dissection in the French press following a 3-1 defeat by Manchester United at Le Parc de Princes. While it would be over-egging it to paint United as ‘giant killers’, the Red Devils squad is worth markedly less than the club bankrolled by Qatari oil money. PSG hold two of the most expensive players of all time in French World Cup winner Kylian Mbappe and Brazilian playboy Neymar.

Second Round values

Elsewhere, the round’s cheapest squad proved further that money is not everything, as Porto overcame Roma (the Italian club has since parted ways with manager Eusebio Di Francesco in the wake of this humbling) – while Juventus battled back to beat Atlético Madrid. The most ‘balanced’ tie of the round, there was a squad value difference of only €22 million between the two squads, in favour of the Spanish giant. With that being said, €113 million of Juve’s price-tag came from the summer acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo. Ronaldo’s tie-settling hat-trick went to show that money spent in the right place ultimately makes the difference.

Spending wisely

At the same time, there were also four teams which lived up to their large price-tags. Manchester City pummelled Schalke over the course of two legs, hammering the German team 7-0 in the second game. With the largest squad market value in the tournament, the Citizens showed that their spending had not merely been a frenzy provoked by having large amounts of money to throw about – a la PSG – and that every penny had in fact been used to craft one of the continent’s most well-balanced and dangerous teams, to ultimately contend for the title.

Tottenham Hotspur similarly brushed off Borussia Dortmund, while Liverpool eventually overcame Bayern Munich, to leave no German teams in the tournament. Meanwhile, Barcelona similarly did for the French contingent of the Champions League, bundling out Olympique Lyonnais 5-1.

Operating Revenues

Going forward, the humbled economic superpowers of European football will take solace from the fact that their huge operating revenues will allow them to buy up talent which has emerged in this year’s Champions League. With Real Madrid having re-installed Zinidine Zidane as Head Coach, the club has already committed itself to spending big in the summer, cashing in some €50 million of its €743 billion revenue stream from last year to sign Éder Militão from Porto – who has impressed in this year's Champions League – in the summer.

Whether the PSG project is financially sustainable in the long-term remains to be seen, meanwhile, but with a huge portion of commercial revenues including shirt-sales from the club’s array of superstars, it will likely also seek to bring in more big names in the summer. The club was reportedly in the running to sign Ajax star Frenkie de Jong, before Barcelona finally secured his services from the end of the season.

The likes of Ajax will meanwhile face an uncomfortable wait, as a range of its new crop of outstanding players inevitably attract the attentions of Europe’s top spenders. With the lowest operating revenues of any team left in Europe, the club will face an uphill struggle to hang on to the likes of teenage captain Matthijs de Ligt. However, it would not be the first time that the club has been plundered for its top talent, and what Ajax and clubs of its size can take forward is that with the right eye for lower-key recruitment, they can rebuild, and still challenge Europe’s elite.