Football - Money match

A look at Premiership club auditors shows there is room for smaller players, finds Philip Smith.

Big Four firm Deloitte has emerged as the biggest winner in the Premiership football league, scoring audits for six of England's top clubs. Its nearest rival, KPMG, managed to bag three audits while PricewaterhouseCoopers and PKF snatched two apiece.

During the 2004/05 season, the most recent for which annual reports are available, Deloitte was the auditor of runners-up Arsenal, fourth placed Everton, Bolton Wanderers, Spurs and Aston Villa. It also marked the books for bottom-of-the-table Southampton, which is now languishing in the middle of the Championship league.

But despite Deloitte's dominance, KPMG was the auditor of Chelsea, league winners in both 2005 and 2006. The teams at KPMG were also responsible for auditing Manchester City and Newcastle United.

However, unlike the FTSE 100, there are a number of smaller audit players in the Premiership, showing that the Big Four stranglehold over listed companies does not stretch to the sporting world and that football clubs are happy to sign up local talent. For instance, Blackburn Rovers makes use of the home-town team at PM&M and Birmingham-based Clement Keys looks after West Bromwich Albion, which managed to avoid the drop in 2005 but was not so lucky this year.

As well as being the leading auditor of Premiership clubs, Deloitte produces annual surveys on the financial state of the beautiful game, the latest of which, All Eyes on Europe, was produced to coincide with the World Cup.

The report shows that football remains big business. The big five European leagues of England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain generated revenues of EUR6.3bn (£4.3bn) in 2004/05, an impressive 8% growth on the previous year. The English Premiership alone generated EUR2bn (£1.33bn).

According to the report, the total revenue for the Premiership clubs was £1.334bn in 2005, up marginally on the previous season's £1.326bn. The total pre-tax loss for the clubs stood at £78m, but this is significantly better than 2004's figure of £128m. Wage costs remain a significant amount for the clubs, but decreased for the first time in the Premiership's history, falling from £811m in 2004 to £785m in 2005, a drop of 3.2%.

But the big news this year came with the new broadcasting rights deal - in the last round back in 2003 Sky agreed to pay £1bn for the exclusive rights to broadcast live Premiership games. This time, the total deal hit £1.7bn, with Sky picking up five of the available packages while new entrant Setanta bagged the rights to screen games on Monday evenings and Saturday at 5.15pm.

Peter Matthews of Ernst & Young says: 'Many had expected that the European requirement to split the packages would limit the upside from this auction, due to the lack of exclusivity. But with the value rising from £1bn to £1.7bn, it is a tremendous result for the FA Premier League and its clubs.'

Now eyes are turning to new media, though the jury is out on how much revenue can be raised from mobile TV, which is being trialled during the World Cup. 'Would you watch all 90 minutes on your phone, and if so, how much would you pay?' asks James Healey, E&Y's media analyst. He reckons the phone operators are now not as keen as they once were on obtaining rights to show games, valuing a potential deal at only £10m.

Deloitte agrees. It says the screen size and solitary nature of watching on a phone could hinder growth, but believes it could form part of a wider offering.

Watch this space.


Manchester United (3)

The club came third in 2005 but topped the league for turnover (£159m) and profitability (£33m). ManU was only second to Chelsea in its wages bill of £77m. Auditor: PwC

Chelsea (1)

Despite a turnover of nearly £149m the club still turned in an operating loss of £16.7m, putting it firmly at the bottom of the table in 2005. This didn't stop the team winning the double though, as the Blues topped the league and lifted the League Cup in the same season. Auditor: KPMG

Liverpool (5)

Fifth in the league but the second most profitable club after ManU (£25m), it scored a turnover of £122m. Europe provided a spectacular finish to the season when it came back from 3-0 down to win on penalties. Auditor: PKF

Arsenal (2)

The north London club narrowly missed out to its west London rivals. But at least off the pitch the Gunners can boast operating profits of £20m on a turnover of £115m. Auditor: Deloitte

Newcastle United (14)

The club had the second largest average gate (51,844) and fifth largest turnover (£87m). Auditor: KPMG

Tottenham Hotspur (9)

Mid-table on the pitch, but Spurs was the fifth most profitable at £12.8m on £53m turnover. Auditor: Deloitte

Manchester City (8)

The club remained in profit at £3.5m with a turnover of £61m and scored the third highest average gate of 45,192. Auditor: KPMG

Everton (4)

Finished the season one place higher than its Merseyside rivals but with only half the turnover of £60m and a credible £10m profit. Auditor: Deloitte

Bolton Wanderers (6)

Scored the same number of points as Liverpool, but with the Reebok stadium only holding 28,000, the Trotters' turnover of £53m only produced a profit of £6.8m. Auditor: Deloitte

Middlesbrough (7)

Finished the season in its highest ever position in the Premiership and turned in a healthy profit of £17m on a turnover of £52m, to boot. Beating Man City meant the Boro went on to Europe the following season. Auditor: PwC

League position in brackets

Source: Deloitte.

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