The 20 Premier League clubs earned record income of £3.649bn in the last year before the more lucrative TV deal began, a Guardian analysis has revealed. The financial statements of the clubs in the Premier League in 2015-16, the most recent year for which accounts have been published, showed they made £200m more than in the previous year that was itself a record.
By far the biggest earners were Manchester United; the accounts for the main United company, registered in the Cayman Islands tax haven, showed income of £515m. It was £123m higher than the club with the next highest income, Manchester City.
Income has increased dramatically since then, as 2016-17 was the first year of the new TV deals, which increased from £5.14bn in 2013-16 to £8.4bn from 2016‑19. That 60% uplift will be seen in the clubs’ accounts for the 2016-2017 season when they are published next year, with a similar rise expected in the money paid to players.
The 2015-16 figures show wages paid to all staff not just players was £2.247bn, another record. That was a £200m increase on 2014-15 but remained steady at 61% of the clubs’ total income, a proportion seen by experts as quite sustainable.
Clubs’ management of the extraordinary TV money improved immediately after the introduction of financial fair play rules for the 2013-16 TV rights cycle, which limited the amount of the increase that could be paid to players and the losses clubs could make.
In 2012-13 clubs spent 67% of their income on wages and 12 clubs made a loss. In 2015-16 12 clubs made a profit, although the clubs made an overall loss of £117m last year due to significant losses by Chelsea, £85m, relegated Aston Villa, £81m, Sunderland, £33m and Everton, £24m.
Analysis of the statements, which include ownership, shows only four clubs are principally owned in the UK: Newcastle United, Norwich City, Stoke City and West Ham United. Increased TV and commercial income, combined with the FFP rules which have made clubs more profitable, have continued to attract investors, many owning clubs via tax havens.
Of the 2015-16 members of the Premier League, seven now have substantial ownership by US investors: Arsenal, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Liverpool, Manchester United, Sunderland and Swansea City. Three clubs have substantial ownership by Chinese business interests: Aston Villa, Manchester City and West Bromwich Albion, where the owner and chairman, Jeremy Peace, sold his shareholding to the Chinese billionaire Guochuan Lai for a reported £150m to £200m.
Two clubs are Russian-owned: Chelsea, by Roman Abramovich, who increased his funding since his 2003 takeover to £1.14bn, and Bournemouth, majority owned by the petrochemicals magnate Maxim Demin.
The other non-UK owned clubs are Everton, substantially owned by the Monaco-based Farhad Moshiri; Manchester City, majority owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the ruling family in Abu Dhabi; Leicester City, owned by the Thai duty-free businessman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha; Southampton, by Katharina Liebherr, a Swiss citizen; Tottenham Hotspur, owned by Joe Lewis in the Bahamas, and Watford, held by Gino Pozzo via a Luxembourg holding company.
While staff at Premier League clubs, and particularly contracted matchday workers, have in many cases been paid less than a living wage, being a chief executive is a well-rewarded position. The highest paid director of Manchester United, assumed to be the executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, earned £2.962m in 2015-16; Daniel Levy of Spurs £2.843m, and Ivan Gazidis, the Arsenal chief executive, £2.648m.
Those salaries were trumped by Richard Scudamore, the executive chairman of the Premier League, who was paid £3.448m in 2015-16, including a £1m bonus for the TV deals of that year, and £1.5m for the new deals that started in 2016-17.