• Football: time for a comeback The Annual Survey of Football Finance Directors 2021

Football: time for a comeback The Annual Survey of Football Finance Directors 2021

06 September 2021

Three quarters of English football clubs’ finances “could be better” or are “in need of attention” and two thirds are relying on their principal shareholders to fund operating losses. The football clubs and the Leagues are working hard to ensure their survival in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing uncertainty. 

How are English football clubs managing the financial impact of the pandemic and empty grounds? Are more football clubs in financial trouble? Has the financial difficulty changed the relative power of shareholders or players? How do the clubs plan to return to growth and a successful future? These are all questions addressed in our annual review of the ‘beautiful game’ in England.

The Football Finance Directors report is based on an annual survey of Finance Directors of clubs across the English leagues. We review the results to better understand the financial health of league football clubs and provide insight into their operational and strategic challenges and opportunities.

In our latest annual review, we examine six key questions that are shaping the financial health of football clubs. These include:

What happend to football finances in 2020/21?: The impact of playing behind closed doors, and the lost football club revenue has been significant throughout the football leagues. 78% of respondents in our survey have rated their football club’s financial position as either “could be better” or “in need of attention”. 

Who’s keeping football afloat?: Despite all the Government reliefs available, two thirds of respondents said that their club was reliant on its principal shareholders to fund operating losses. Shareholders have had to provide sufficient support to football clubs to carry them through to reopening. 

How significant is football's digital future?: Without the mainstream media coverage, women’s football has been more innovative and build up a significant digital presence. For men’s football, digital is a largely unexplored opportunity.

Who will be taking football forward? There has been no let-up in interest from new investors. Nearly half of clubs having recently been approached by potential investors. However, only 22% of clubs are considering a full or partial exit.

Has there been a shift in player power? Against a backdrop of financial uncertainty,  clubs in FLC and FL1&2 still held power over the future of players whose contracts were expiring. In the EPL, the balance of power is different with more valuable players entering the final 12 months of their contracts and putting pressure on clubs. 

What do stakeholders expect from football clubs in the future? Football clubs, like all companies, need to consider the needs of wider stakeholder groups and this is now very much reflected in Financial Reporting Council’s requirements for annual reports. How are clubs coping with Strategic Reporting and ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) requirements?