Football Debt

We’ve compiled historic debts of English Premier League football, wages, and performance at Check out your favourite team, see how they financially stack up. Find out who is really the player of the year when social popularity is factored in and compare your income to a professional footballer with the the Salary Match tool.

Football finances are ever a source of fascination and debate, and as the summer transfer market hots up, we’ve compiled a picture of the state of English Premier League finances, in particular historic club debt and other financial indicators, footballer wages and examined official club players of the year alongside popular social measures.

EPL team badges on a football pitch

The English Premier League is widely documented as being a colossal financial machine with complex club ownership arrangements and eye watering transfer fees dominating the headlines.

On a separate website,, we’ve compiled a league table of debt, goals, attendance and wages.

We’ve also devised a comparative analysis of each club’s Player of the Year with their respective social popularity to contrast each club’s most valuable player.

There is also a Salary Match tool so you can compare your income versus that of a professional footballer.

League Table of Debt, Wages and Performance

Displayed to the lower left of the pitch, the English Premier League (EPL) teams are default ordered by league points.

However a simple click on the heading titles will sort them by the respective heading titles.

Thus the net debt of last season’s title holders Manchester United, is, based on the latest available published financial information, eclipsed by Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea with £878m of debt.

Some Season Statistics English Premier League

Highlights include:

Season EPL stats

Published attendance figures show quite a variance among top clubs, although it has been reported elsewhere that the police reported figures for Manchester United are far lower than the club declare.

Among the most documented of EPL club debt is Manchester United, whose takeover by the Glazer sparked huge controversy  since 2005.

However given the recent continued footballing success of the club under the now retired Alex Ferguson, the accumulated club debt, which critics claim limits their ability to invest in top football talent in Europe, is steadily declining.

The story of Man Utd’s debt has been closely chronicled by Andy Green, an investment analyst who recently stated:

The interest from all debt…is almost £600m. Paying interest has taken far more of the club’s cash than has been spent on transfers.

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Just as Man Utd have remained in debt, EPL clubs as a whole, continue to grow revenues which allows them to service the high level of debts and the interest they accrue.

As with the Manchester United example however, are fans ultimately concerned about football success than the financial performance of their clubs or is there more room for reinvestment into the game?

Have a vote right here and comment below.

The story of Man Utd debt and that of Chelsea finances have been covered extensively.

Perhaps less so has that of the well supported and never far the from the headlines Newcastle United.

Newcastle United FC – Between a Rock and hard place

Comment about the financial and football evolution of Newcastle United are from Ian Ferguson, a Tynesider, now resident in Scotland who has spent years compiling and pouring over football club debt accounts.

Ian FergusonNewcastle United have switched strategy since they changed ownership in 2007. In the good old, bad old days, when the Halls and Shepherds owned and ran the club their egos demanded that they had to try to compete with the big-money sides. Looking back Leeds were their obvious big challengers, spending money they didn’t have to compete at a level they could never maintain.

Under, in particular Freddie Shepherd, Newcastle went from having £24m in the bank in 1998 to having debts of £124m only ten years later. A fantastic over spend that allowed the club to have had Michael Owen, Albert Luque, Obafemi Martin, and Coloccini all join for fees over £10m.

In the case of Owen this was financed by borrowing money from the then sponsors Northern Rock. Not many teams actually owed their sponsors money the way Shepherd managed the club.

Mike Ashley bought out the Hall/Shepherd owners, paying too much, and seemingly not fully appreciating the debt situation. He has put in place a wage structure that has controlled those outgoings in a way Freddie Shepherd never even dreamed of.

He has also changed some fundamental business practices. Newcastle now pay transfer fees up front. Every other team pays in instalments, often over the life of the player’s contract.

This is a huge negotiating point when they go to buy a player. Would you like £5m today from Newcastle, or would you £2m a year for 3 years from another team?

Ashley has also decided not to have any borrowings from banks. He has financed the club since he took over. All his loans, which currently sit at £129m are interest free. Over the last three years that has saved the club about £20m in interest payments.

His other big saving is in the amount he pays the directors of the club. The recently departed Director Derek Llambias was paid a salary of £250,000. By comparison in the last 6 years of their time with the club Freddie Shepherd, and Douglas Hall collectively paid themselves £9m. They also paid themselves huge dividends, taking another £14m out of the clubs coffers.

Ashley has managed to get the debt of the club under control. He has instead invested in value for money French players, refusing to pay exorbitant fees for English players.

Ashley seems to be running the finances of the club on a “make no loss, make no profit, pay your bills on time, don’t borrow money” philosophy. Sounds about right to me.

Newcastle will never be able to compete with oil money, but it should be able to compete when the Financial Fair Play rules kick-in, and looks to have a sound financial future.

Ian Ferguson – football blogger and qualified hypnotherapist

Revenue and Wages

The Premiership revenue and wage growth is superbly detailed in the recent Annual Football Report from Deloitte, which documents how EPL total revenue eclipses the Bundersliga by €1 billion and the wage bill, which currently stands at £18.7m each week, continues to rise.

According to the Deloitte findings, Premiership football clubs spend more than 70% of revenue on player wages, and in championship teams it’s 90%.

Unlike other leagues, where clubs grapple with perilous financial circumstances, the high amount of debt carried by Premiership clubs is sustained by their abilities to continually raise revenue by assorted sponsorship, broadcast and commercial deals.

Football Debt and Insolvency – Beyond the Premiership

With a reported 120 European clubs going into insolvency since 2007, the sustainability of #footballdebt outside of the Premiership is a sore topic.

I asked, Stephen Allinson, a non executive director of recently Championship promoted Yeovil Town FC, for his views of football finances outside of the Premiership.

Steve, who is also a solicitor and licensed Insolvency practitioner with considerable experience in football finance issues, expressed strong concerns at the state of the industry and predicts further administrations in the football league this season:

Stephen AllinsonAny relegated club from the Premier League will get about £60 million in parachute payments for a 4 year period. Compare this with the small morsels that the Premier League gives other football league clubs in terms of a ” solidarity payment”. To put it in context, in this coming year, Wolves will receive £16 million from them for their first year in League 1 whereas other clubs will get under £300,000! This is nonsense and encourages clubs who fail…

Football League clubs ought to refuse to deal with the Premier League but club owners still chase the holy grail and self interest takes over.

The gap between the “haves and the have nots ” will just increase and failures will increase. Last season the Premier League began to exercise more control over the lower league academies thus stultifying their abilities to generate youth players for their long term benefit.

The whole business model is flawed, and needs a complete overhaul – but is anyone brave enough to take on the might of the Premier League?

Stephen Allinson, Consultant Solicitor, Lester Aldridge Solicitors & Insolvency Practitioner

Football Wages, Financial Fair Play Rules and your Salary Match

On the subject of football wages, one of the more salient quotes in 2013 Deloitte’s foreword piece by Dan Jones, which dates back to a comment made in 1995 is:

..we believe that controlling the wage bill is, long term, football’s biggest challenge…

Findings of the 2013 report have certainly generated debate about player salaries.

Despite the introduction of Financial Fair Play rules for the 2013/14 season, where Premier League clubs cannot make a loss in excess of £105 million total across a three season period, the issue of spiralling player salaries is likely to continue as additional wages cost can be funded by increased commercial revenues and offset by other infrastructure investments.

To the fan on the terrace, the complexities of the games finances and player incomes can seem a world away from the reality of the age of wage austerity.

To illustrate this, we devised the Salary Match tool which allows you to enter your annual salary and see how it compares to a professional footballer player’s weekly income.

Salary Match

Enter your annual salary and the page will instantly display:

  • whom is your equivalent football player persona
  • how many weeks it would take you to earn that player’s weekly salary
  • how much that player earns per week
  • how many days it takes for that player to earn your annual salary
  • displays a running total of how much that player has earnt while you were reading the above

There are multiple player wage brackets included in the database to allow comparisons across the range of average salaries.

So for example, using the Salary Match tool, if you were in the top bracket of annual earners taking home upwards of £150,000 per annum that would equate to being Lionel Messi, who earns £300,000 per week.

…to have the equivalent football earning power of Lionel Messi, you need to take home at least £150k a year.

Want to know your Football Salary Match?

As with all the data used in we have drawn upon publically available and published  data and detailed its origin in a downloadable spreadsheet.

With the deluge of football data and technology available now, there are ample ways to analyse the game. The correlation of wages and performance, and the intricacies of performance related football pay and the challenges it brings remains a topic of debate from the pub to the boardroom and across the negotiating table.

The Numbers Game: Why Everything You Know About Football is Wrong

How Do the Debt Numbers and Wages Stack Up?

A recent book published about the game by former pro goal keeper, Chris Anderson and David Sally, a behavioural analyst, explores the numbers behind the game in glorious detail, evidencing why stopping a goal is more valuable than scoring one, why corners should be taken short, and why it is better to improve your worst player than to buy a superstar.

In a recent blog post, Chris and David explain how they have mathematically calculated that the peak transfer value of an average pro player is a relatively spritely 26 years of age.

Co author of The Number Game, Chris Anderson  makes some cogent observations about the correlation of wages and football performance. Citing  the title Why England Loses by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, Anderson notes that

92 per cent of the differences in English football clubs’ league position can be explained by a club’s relative wage bill. It might not be the case that the team with the highest wage bill finishes top each and every season, but over the long term , the correlation is uncanny. At the other end of the table, it seems inevitable that, eventually, in football poverty will drag you down.

Anderson then goes to question how Wigan have, despite their relative modest wage bill, repeatedly eluded relegation. Until this season just gone, unfortunately for the Latics.

In terms of the the propensity of clubs to avoid relegation and the size of their wage bill, Anderson and Sally note

…the odds of relegation in any given season are 15 per cent…but when we examined twenty years of club finances with the help of data from Deloitte, we found that a club’s odds of relegation are 7.2 per cent if its wage spend is greater than average. In other words, you can halve the chances of being relegated just by spending a little more on your salaries than the average side. But for clubs that spend less, the odds of relegation shoot up from 15 to 21 per cent.

– Anderson & Sally, The Numbers Game

The Numbers Game is available from Amazon and we’re prize draw offering limited copies in the month of July – check the comments section at the end of the post for details.

Football Finance – a game of two halves

At the other end of the financial scale, even within the same league, teams such as Swansea City have managed to mix financial discipline and success on the pitch remarkably well.

By sorting the table of EPL teams by wage total, the 9th placed welsh team enjoy one of the lowest weekly wage bills and yet have enjoyed comparable success on the pitch.

Some commentators have detailed how the Swans became the best value team in the Premiership. 

Swansea City Wage Total

By contrast, Manchester City top the table of the club with the highest wage bill, with a whopping weekly wage total of £2,417,000. 

Equally the ticket price and season ticket prices show great variance, with Wigan offering 2012 ticket prices as £30 for their most expensive match day price, compared to Arsenal at £126 and an average match day ticket price of £57.95.

Most expensive season ticket prices followed similar disparity with Arsenal at £1,955 versus Wigan at £310 – way below the EPL average of £865. Cheapest season ticket prices on average were £468 in 2012.

With new figures just released by clubs for next season and promoted and relegated clubs included, the cheapest season ticket has now risen by £36 to £504 on average.

Club Player of the Year, weighted by Social Popularity

In compiling a Player Analysis, we brought together social popularity metrics from Facebook and the official Player of the Year.

For each Premiership club listed on, the official Player of the Year is listed to the left with the Transfer Fee, Weekly Wage and their Facebook Following listed, and to the right is the Most Valued Player (MVP) as calculated by

Most Valued Player

By taking into account the social popularity of player this formula throws up some surprising results. Below is the result for Manchester City, whereby Joe Hart is deemed more valued than Pablo Zabaleta.

click to enlarge and view on

The MVP calculation is not without it’s critics. Daniel Etchells, Senior Customer Services officer at Abacus Finance and sports blogger, observes:

Daniel EtchellsNot all players have a designated transfer fee as not all players have undergone a transfer from one club to another. Also, it is highly unlikely that every single player in the Premier League has a fan page on Facebook.

The value of a player must surely be distinguished by their performance on the pitch – appearances made, trophies won etc – and their commercial value to the club off it – shirt sales, marketing etc.

The author of this formula, Ben Harper, explains the rationale behind using it:

Ben HarperWe chose to create a Most Valued Player metric based on social media data for a number of reasons.  The scope of Facebook’s data, which includes the ‘like’ preferences of it’s 1 billion user base, is invaluable in tracking sentiment towards players as users volunteer their preference information in liking a player publicly.

We needed a cost metric to compare this to in order to give an impression of value.  We decided to use transfer fee + 12 month contract value as the measure, as these are popular metrics that everyone can understand and are universal to all players.  We thought carefully about the fact that some players weren’t transferred in as they came through the academies at their respective clubs, but decided that this was a positive factor which would be good to highlight in the piece.

Facebook has approximately 34 million users in the UK, meaning that our data in this study covered over half of the population.  We believe this robust sample was strong enough to create a new metric independent of the traditional value calculations based on aspects such as shirt sales and goals.

This metric is focussed on player popularity, and as such is an interesting comparison to the officially voted Player of the Year for each club.

– Ben Harper, Zazzle Media – Social and Data Insight Manager 


Your verdict on Football Finance and Football Debt

Do you agree or disagree with the football debt and the football finance commentors above?

Let us know what you think below.

WIN a copy of The Numbers Game – Leave a comment below

To enter with a chance to win a copy of the book, The Numbers Game, during the month of July, leave a quality comment below. We’ll be selecting the best commenter each week to receive a paperback or Kindle edition of the book. Please comment with an ID  that links to a social profile so we can determine your identity or email/social profile in order to contact you if deemed a winner or email marketing AT to notify us of your ID. Not open to employees or agents of ClearDebt group plc. Subject to availability. No cash alternative. Valid from July 1st-31st 2013. This competition is not affiliated with Penguin UK or Amazon in any way. Not accumalated with any other prize draw. We reserve the right to suspend the competition or reassign prize if we’re unable to contact you or winner prizes remain unclaimed after 7 days. Winners will be notified by email.

Summary sources for all the data is displayed here and also in further detail from the spreadsheet available here:

Data for #footballdebt

Google Docs 60 Kb


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  1. The Liverpool trends are interesting, performance has definitely dropped as debt has, indicating that they are ‘accepting’ a lower league position in order to stay solvent… a nod to the Financial fair Play rules?

    1. it’s intriguing how the clubs are adapting to FFP rules with combinations of star players signing, transfers and financial gymnastics.

  2. Norwich are a team who seem to play within the FFP rules. last few years used good quality lower league players to maintain there premier league status whilst using the revenue from the Premier League TV rights deal to clear the majority of there debts. Now that they are on a sound financial footing they are able to spend some of the cash on better quality players. I expect better things from them this year.

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