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New football finance report proves worrying reading for South East clubs

By Steve Charnock
29 April 2022

A new - and entirely independent - study, written by senior football finance lecturers from the Universities of Liverpool and Portsmouth, is damning about the current state of money in the game.

The report, published alongside the Government’s response to the Fan Led Review of Football Governance, finds many serious issues surrounding sustainability in the finances of many English football clubs.

Commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the frank and illuminating report is stark in highlighting the various concerns surrounding what is a 'widespread culture' of football clubs operating in entirely unsustainable ways.

Co-author of the report Christina Philippou, Principal Lecturer in Accounting and Financial Management at the University of Portsmouth, said this on the subject: “There is a widespread issue of clubs being run in unsustainable ways from a viewpoint of traditional financial analysis. This is not purely as a result of the pandemic as the unsustainability issue was in evidence for years prior to the 2019/20 season."

“As a consequence, football clubs tend to be more reliant on owner funding and underwriting of losses than companies in other industries that have been trading for a similar length of time. This increases the reliance of clubs on owners, and if their personal circumstances change, increases insolvency risk.”

Christina's co-writer was Kieran Maguire, a popular football finance podcaster and Lecturer in Accountancy at the University of Liverpool’s Management School: “The impacts in the event a club does go into administration can be split across many different stakeholders," he says.

"The majority of which lose out financially as a result of administration. The financial effects of administration and liquidation, including non-payment and cash flow issues arising from late payment, are then felt by the fans, local businesses and the employees at the club, causing widespread issues within the community."

READ MORE: Two experts give their view on the financial impact of Reading avoiding relegation

Here's what the study has to say about the league clubs in the South East:

Liquidity is vital for a football club. The ability to make a purchase or investment if needed without causing debt or uncertainty means a team can be strengthened during a transfer window, a stand can be replaced or training ground facilities can be upgraded. Without it, a club can be stymied, or reliant on handouts from its owners.

Featured in the report are figures indicating various clubs' liquidity. It appears as if Southampton are the best-performing of those local clubs which have recently been - or are in - the Premier League. Bournemouth and Brighton & Hove Albion rank particularly low for this metric, which will be of some concern to their supporters.

Look further down the leagues and it's not good news for Reading, either. They rank near the bottom of the liquidity league table in the Championship.

The League One liquidity table makes sorry reading for Oxford United and MK Dons too, but in the context of the league they're in, Portsmouth perform quite admirably.

Net debt is another metric for which Bournemouth and Brighton do not rate well in. Unlike, again, Southampton. Who, judging by this report, are run rather well.

Altogether though, the report makes for pretty sorry perusing for the sport. Here's hoping the overall picture improves. And soon.

You can find out more by downloading and reading the full ‘Assessing the Financial Sustainability of Football’ report here.