Manchester United announced their 2020 fourth quarter figures yesterday and they did not make for easy reading.
Revenue is down by £118 million, with the effects of COVID-19 explaining around £70 million of that figure according to The Athletic, and a large part of the rest due to last season’s failure to qualify for the Champions League.
Commercial revenue – sponsorship deals and the like, actually went up during the period despite the closure of the megastore, but this did not stop the 2019 profit of £18.9 million turning into a loss of £23.2m, a drop of £42 million.
This led to that important ‘EBITDA’ figure (earnings before interest, taxes etc) falling to £132.1m, still comfortably above the danger mark of £65 million, which is the point at which debtors can, put simply, foreclose on the club.
The most worrying figure of all is the shocking rise in debt, which has more than doubled to £474 million.
‘That 133 per cent increase is predominantly due to a reduction in cash, which includes deferred sponsorship payments in excess of £80 million, the loss of 2020-21 season ticket advances estimated at £50 million, and increased spending on players from the previous year amounting to £56.4 million,’ The Athletic’s Laurie Whitwell explains.
‘The numbers help explain United’s caution in the transfer market and chief financial officer Cliff Baty foretold of further restraint by revealing United would break with custom and make no revenue predictions for the coming year due to the “loss of a pre-season summer tour” and the possibility of a “full season behind closed doors”.’
However, no such penny-pinching for the Glazer family, who own 78% of the club. They still paid themselves an almost identical dividend to last year of £23.2 million. Well, a family’s got to eat, doesn’t it?
‘The Athletic has been told the payments were agreed before the pandemic began to grip, sometime in February, and waiving them was not a consideration due to the need to maintain a healthy share price,’ Whitwell explains.
Hmmm, what’s that smell? Has there been a bull around here?