BACK in the days before the Premier League, I don’t remember the announcement of a club’s financial results as attracting that much attention – Saturday afternoon results were all that mattered.
In these times of film star wages, billionaire foreign owners and satellite TV deals however, balance sheets and profit and loss accounts are pored over with almost as much interest as the league tables in the Sunday morning papers.
Most commentators tend to focus on the astronomical debt levels being accumulated at the likes of the Manchester clubs, Chelsea and indeed LFC until Hicks and Gillett were run out of town; whether the club made a profit or loss; and the ‘transfer kitty’ that may or may not be available to the manager.
These headline numbers are of course important, and are readily understood by the fans. Good job too, since the majority of the information contained in statutory financial statements might well have been written in Sanskrit for all the sense it will make to them in explaining the goings-on at their beloved football club.
Clubs cannot be blamed of course for the requirements placed upon them as companies to account for their financial affairs following specified conventions and in particular formats. But would it be asking too much for them to produce a version that was accessible to fans wishing to understand just a bit more about their club’s financial stewardship?
So taking what’s left of my accounting knowledge learned long ago in both hands, I ventured into the detail of LFC’s published accounts this week to see what I could glean that might be of interest to me and others eager to learn what might lurk behind the headlines trotted out by Ian Ayre earlier this week.
Take transfers for example. One of the most infuriating phrases in football is the ‘undisclosed sum’ often stated when signing a player for some outlandish fee that would probably embarrass all concerned. Undisclosed to whom? I bet the tax authorities and the FA know – why are the fans kept in the dark?
Alas little detail is forthcoming in the accounts – just that we paid out £45m and recouped £31m (remember these figures relate to last season). These numbers will include agents’ costs and other payments which are just bundled in with the transfer price – not much transparency there.
One interesting line in the accounts is ‘amortisation and impairment of players’ registrations’ – nearly £43m of it. Basically the club spreads the cost of transfer fees across the life of the players’ contracts (amortisation) but also takes into account any loss in value of these players (impairment) during the year – nearly £9m last year. Jordan Henderson and Stuart Downing by any chance?
Fans calling for a change of manager may also like to ponder the £9.6m presumably paid out to King Kenny and others on their departure as part of ‘restructuring costs’.
No doubt the conspiracy theorists amongst you will be keen to spot any suggestion that the owners are siphoning off money to line their pockets or fund other sporting ventures – nothing to see here I’m afraid. The £47m advanced by the parent company as an interest-free loan after the date of these accounts is on top of £22m already provided on a similar basis up to May 2012. Ok it’s still a loan, but it’s better than paying interest to the banks.
If they’re in this for the money, then on these figures they’re going to need to be around for a long time.