Friday, February 13, 2009

Where's Chelsea's money going? - Ebren

Chelsea are in debt. Fans of other clubs have seen this as either an excuse for losing to them, or a source of mirth if they don't win.

They’ve been losing money hand over fist since Roman Abramovic began his quest to make his personal plaything the best club in the world. This "pimp my club" experiment he has lost £140 million (2005), £74.8 million (2007) and £66 million (2008) - the losses from the other years are harder to track down, but no doubt significant. In total, the market trader turned oligarch has now committed £710 million to south-west London.

And this is great.

It's great because everyone can tut and say he's ruining football. It's great because we get to see some of the finest players and managers in the world either excelling or humbled in our league. Every manager [bar Mark Hughes] can shrug and say: "Well, how can you compete with that." Or if they win or draw, rejoice that they have beaten the odds.

But, and here's where it gets interesting, where the hell has that cash gone?

The most recent accounts show Chelsea made £213.1 million in the 2007/08 season. They spent £148 million of this on wages. And another £23.1 million on compensation for Grant, Mourinho and all their support staff.

That summer they spent £13.5 million on Florent Malouda, £1.3 million on Jacob Mellis, and £5 million on Julian Belletti. They sold Arjen Robben for £24 million - and Glenn Johnson and Lassana Diarra for undisclosed fees. £19.8 million in buys and at very least £24 million in sales.

That January they bought Franco Di Santo for £3.4 million, Branislav Ivanovic for £9 million and Nicolas Anelka for £15 million. They didn't sell anyone.

So that's a maximum transfer loss of £23.2 (not counting Johnson and Diarra). Assuming they cost about £5 million each, let's say £13.2 million.

So the maths is simple: £213.1 - £148 - £13.2 - £23.1 = £28.8 million. Or £18.8 million if you assume Johnson and Diarra went for nothing.

Which begs the question: where on earth did the other £84.8 million go?

To put that in context - it's more than Chelsea's gate receipts for the entire season. It's more than the total TV revenue from their run to the Champions League final, the new - enhanced - Premier League TV package, and their TV cash from their domestic cup runs combined. More than all their sponsorship deals and shirt sales as well.

Hell, it's more than the entire revenue that is brought in by the 20th highest-earning club on the planet according to Deliotte. More than 14 other clubs in the Premier League make in a year.

Chelsea do not have to service any debts (all their loans are provided interest-free by their owner). Their wages are comfortably covered. They aren't spending much in the transfer windows (since 2004/05 they have generally not spent much at all overall, with sales wiping out almost all the price of the purchases). Their other costs can't be that much more than the other Premier League clubs. But the amount they are losing dwarfs all this.

What we have in Chelsea then, is a club that is palpably living within its means. One that is not splashing more money than it can afford on either transfers or wages.

One that does rather seem prone to signing coaches on costly long-term deals then sacking them, but then, if they last a season with no compensation payments (the season before they had to hand £12 million to Manchester United in compensation for Mikel, and there will be an estimated £7 million going to Scolari), we are talking about a club making £52 million after wages and player purchases are accounted for.

So I have come to the only conclusion I can - the other £84 million has been spent on building a deep, underground bunker beneath Stamford Bridge. An entirely self-sufficient world - linked to the Cobham training base by a subterranean mag-lev train - to enable Peter Kenyon to conduct the club's business without ever being exposed to sunlight.

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