“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”…. Genuinely, I feel Christmas is upon us when the Everton Annual Report & Accounts slip into the inbox – time for mince pies and perhaps a glass of something warming as I review the financial affairs of our beloved club in the year 2017/18 (year ending 31 May 2018).
What are the headlines?
- Huge increase in costs and player amortisation as the club’s investment in players hit the bottom line in pursuit of the higher reaches of the Premier League & regular European football
- Wages increase from £104.7m to £145.5m
- Amortisation increases from £37.3m to £66.9m reflecting the continued enormous investment in players
- Large increase in one off payments (exceptionals) – arising from management changes, new stadium costs and impairment in player registrations
- Revenues increase by 10.4% to a “record” £189.2m – largely due to an increase in commercial activities outside of sponsorship, advertising and merchandising, namely participation in the Europa League
- Record player trading profit of £87.8m following sale of Lukaku, Cleverly, Deulofeu and Barkley
- The club shows an operating loss of £22.9m
- Resulting in a net loss of £13.1m
- Debt goes to £66m with a positive cash position of £9.5m
- Farhad Moshiri continues to fund losses and cash requirements increasing his loans to the club by £100m in 2017/18, to £250m in total.
The story of this year’s accounts is one of huge spending with increases way beyond the increases in income funded by player sales, capital injections from Moshiri, the use of debt facilities and some increase in commercial income.
Whatever criticism comes the way of the club, in terms of manager and player recruitment, plus delays in the stadium development, there can be no doubting Moshiri’s financial commitment to the club which now stands at £250 million – and this before the stadium is financed with the exception of existing development costs.
Overall revenues increased by fractionally more than 10% to £189 million with gate receipts increasing on the back of more home games, sponsorship increasing by 34% to £20.7 million and other commercial income increasing by 100% to £22.7 million.
The increase in sponsorship and other commercial income appears to reflect the inclusion of Europa League participation monies and rewards rather than signalling a huge increase in commercial activity. It further signifies the importance of regularly qualifying for Europe.
It is clear that we remain heavily dependent upon broadcasting revenues (69% of total), much more so than our competitors and peers in the top 6. By way of comparison broadcasting revenues are 34.5% of Manchester United’s revenue and 40% of Manchester City’s in 2017/18. What is more, it is difficult to see further growth in the current cycle from this source of income, thereby placing a reliance on commercial income growth in the future.
Non-broadcasting income growth must remain a priority for the Board and the commercial department in coming years. We cannot afford to wait for Bramley-Moore to increase revenues.
Costs grew hugely as the great spending fest of summer 2017 hit the club’s accounts.
Wages grew by an enormous amount, up from £104.6 million to £145.5 million in 2017/18 taking us into the top 6 of wage payers above Spurs. It’s worth recalling that in 2015/16 the last year before Moshiri took a shareholding in the club, our wages stood at £84 million. It’s also worth noting that wages have increased as a percentage of turnover, despite the enormous increase in broadcasting revenues from 69% to 77%. We have also moved from 10th to a projected 6th in the wages league.
With the huge investment in players, our amortisation costs have increased equally. Amortisation (which is the cost of registration of players spread over the length of their contracts) increased from a previous record of £37.3 million to £66.9 million. Another sign of the financial commitment and perhaps the folly of the summer 2017 spending spree.
The two other elements of costs are the “Other Operating Costs” which is everything other than wages in operating terms – travel, insurance, maintenance, energy, accommodation, legal, professional fees etc etc and “exceptional” costs which include Bramley-Moore, settlement fees for manager/training team changes and any impairment charges to the value of player registrations.
Other operating costs came in at £36.8 million a reduction of 6.1% on the previous year, however it must be noted that the continued costs of preparing for Bramley-Moore are excluded from this category this year appearing as an exceptional, having been included in 2016/17.
Exceptional costs were significant. Firstly, the continued saga of management changes with both Koeman, his coaching team and Allardyce and his team costing £14.4 million in this financial year.
Additionally, the continued Bramley-Moore preparations cost the club a further £11.4 million in 2017/18. Until such a time as the club receives planning permission these costs appear in the Profit and Loss account (as with previous years). When planning permission is obtained these costs can be capitalised, effectively being added back into the P&L and then costed over the life of the stadium. Whilst they impact current profitability, they do not have any effect on Financial Fair Play nor the Premier League’s profitability and sustainability regulations.
The value of player registrations were reduced (impaired) by a figure of £8.2 million
Profit or loss?
As a result of all of the above the club swung from an operating profit of £25 million in 2016/17 to an operating loss of £22.9 million in 2017/18, significantly worse than projected at the last Annual General Meeting of shareholders.
When one takes into account interest payments, amortisation, depreciation and player trading profits (at a record of £87.8 million) the club shows a net loss of £13.1 million (2016/17 profit of £30.6 million)
How are these losses funded?
The losses are funded from two sources. Firstly, an additional capital injection of £100 million from Farhad Moshiri through his Isle of Man company BlueSky Capital and secondly use of our credit facilities with ICBC and Santander.
£100 million capital injection by Farhad Moshiri
£43 million used of £60 million credit facility offered by Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, secured against Premier League broadcasting revenues
£32.2 million from Santander secured against player trading receivables (remaining Lukaku payments due from Manchester United)
Other areas of note in the accounts:
As always, away from the headline figures there’s always one or two interesting pieces to pick up in the accounts.
The cost of employing Directors has risen substantially in recent years, rising from £770,000 in 2015/16 to £1.62 million in 2016/17 and now to £2.48 million in 2017/18. The highest paid (but unnamed Director) received £927,000 up from £588,000 in the previous year.
In the context of other large Premier League clubs these costs are not huge, but in the context of commercial performance and delivery of key targets such as Bramley-Moore, accountability and scrutiny of performance must be clearer, and as the costs grow expectation of results and the consequences of non-delivery must be more apparent.
The justification for continued increases in Director remuneration when viewed in the context of the company’s performance must be an area of concern for shareholders and fans alike.
Staff numbers increased from 391 to 427 reflecting a reduction in administration staff but a significant increase on the playing and management/coaching side to 172 from 151. The club also employs an average of 406 temporary staff on match days.
As player trading activities increased in the current inflationary cycle, the amounts owed to, and from clubs relating to player transfers increased – trade debtors (amounts owed to Everton) within a year increased from £35.9m to £64.3 and beyond a year from £18.7m to £45.3m. Meanwhile trade creditors (amounts owed by Everton) increased from £32.5m to £56.2m
A final financial note in the accounts is the growing (but usually over-looked) contingent liabilities for future transfer fees, signing on fees and loyalty bonuses now totaling £71 million (2016/17 £50.6 million).
We are, as always with accounts, looking through the rear driving mirror to see where we have been, rather than where we are going. Regardless, the direction of travel is usually clear.
There are often unavoidable truths that can only be altered by a material change in strategy (increase in income or reduction in costs) to become sustainable. Very few businesses can continue to operate under the largesse of their owners, particularly in a regulated environment such as the Premier League and UEFA.
Everton have clearly invested to become more competitive, to increase the chances of success on the pitch, albeit with minimal effect given the recruitment of, and subsequent decisions of Koeman, Walsh and Allardyce. The return on the investment made was shockingly poor and that is reflected in the performance on and off the field.
That performance was thankfully recognised, remedial action engaged, and has resulted in the recruitment of Brands and Silva who both are charged with improving financial and playing performance.
The shortfall in financial performance has been funded by the sale of players, particularly Lukaku, Cleverly, Deulofeu and Barkley, and the continued investment by Moshiri. Moshiri is now the 4th largest benefactor in English football.
What is clear though is that to become sustainable, we have to improve on the pitch, generating European revenues more consistently and higher than in the past; we have to increase our commercial revenues, more quickly than previously to (i) meet costs but more importantly, (ii) catch up with those above us.
We cannot rely on future player sales nor on Moshiri to constantly bail us out. The board has to focus on improving revenue generation, instil cost controls and discipline and finally ensure that Bramley-Moore happens as quickly as possible to help grow the business. The delays to Bramley-Moore are hugely costly.
These accounts are (IMO) the final year we can get away with recruitment errors, old business practices and a reliance on a generous benefactor. We need to succeed on the pitch, but most importantly we need to expand the revenues of the business through fan acquisition, greater Global engagement, commercial and partnership growth.
The company’s finances have been stretched once more, albeit more than adequately supported by the major shareholder. But it must be remembered that in the current financial year (2018/19) the issue of Bramley-Moore funding has to be addressed, and will undoubtedly require further capital funding by Farhad Moshiri.
We are a bigger business than 3 years ago when Moshiri joined us, but in the chase for success we have allowed our expenditure to grow significantly faster than our income, it’s now time for the Board to deliver alongside the majority shareholder – there’s much to be done.
*Much more analysis is to follow on the #EvertonBusinessMatters podcast including an exclusive interview with Sasha Ryazantsev, Everton’s Chief Financial & Commercial Officer and Board member. Published and produced by The Blue Room. Available here, The Blue Room and Toffeeweb plus your usual podcast providers i-tunes, Spotify and other platforms.