How Big Is Wenger's War Chest? Arsenal’s Finances Investigated

Kroenke has publicly backed him and all sorts of figures are being around for Wenger's war chest. But just how much money do Arsenal have to spend?
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Kroenke has publicly backed him and all sorts of figures are being around for Wenger's war chest. But just how much money do Arsenal have to spend?

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Arsenal’s financial results for the half year to the end of November 2012 are out. Expert finance commentators will be dissecting them in detail, including my AST colleagues. In the meantime the papers have had a quick go, some more successfully than others.

The Daily Mirror, for example, described Arsenal’s financial results as ‘the shock figures’. Idiots. Apparently this set of results “shatters the myth that Arsenal do not pay big wages”. Pardon? Where were you when the £143m wage bill for last year was announced?

The FT was generally better, but still said: “Arsenal further strengthened manager Arsène Wenger’s negotiating hand in transfer dealings by announcing cash reserves of £123.3m.”What? There was shedloads of money he wasn’t spending anyway. His hand was so strong he could have picked up an elephant! Arsenal have also signalled that there will be “significant purchases in the summer.” Uh-huh. Yes. Just one thing: THAT’S WHAT THEY ALWAYS SAY!

Anyway, what we all want to know is how much can be spent on a new set of Gervinhos and Parks. In other words:

How Big Is The (Available) Cash Pile?

Cash reserves at the end of November were £123.3m. This is £30m down on the position at June 1 last year (when the bulk of season ticket money for 2012-13 was in), but up from the £115.2m reported a year ago for the period ending Nov 2011.

There are all kinds of small ups and downs in the figures to account for that increased cash of £8m, so I’ll leave it to the accountants to match off every debit and credit.

Out of the £123.3m, Arsenal must maintain a cash reserve under the financing agreements, currently around £24m I think.

There are various other relatively small amounts that may need to be held back to do with property development and potential payments as part of transfer deals (eg for number of appearances).

Money is also needed for regular outgoings, including wages for all staff (approx. £12.5m a month) and running costs for the stadium, training centre, Highbury house, etc.

Side by side with these liabilities, TV money, non-season ticket gate money, (limited) commercial revenue, etc, comes in through the year.

So adding all that together, how much is the fabled ‘war chest’ right now?

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Probably not much different to what it was before. I’d guess they could spend £80m without the danger of needing to borrow anything to cover it. The fact that we know there is more revenue due shortly from better deals means that even without Champions League money next year, costs could just about be covered after spending £70m-£80m, though it might be a bit tight depending exactly when money is due. Though that does depend on Arsene resisting the urge to award all round pay rises to the squad just for turning up.

The strength of the balance sheet, turnover and the upcoming extra money from TV deals, sponsorship, etc, means that in normal business terms there would be no problem with short term borrowing. However, if I recall correctly there are severe limits on that as part of the existing loan deals, which is one reason to maintain a healthy cash balance.

Of course a big pile of cash also suits Stan Kroenke, who is in no danger of having to dip his hand in his own pocket for Arsenal. Not when there are parts of Colorado he doesn’t yet own.

Still, on the face of it, there is money to spend. Whether it gets spent is of course a different matter. How wisely it gets spent is a different matter again.

Other bits of info from the accounts, if you’re interested:

- Turnover for the six months to November rose £21.7m to £138.4m, predominantly as a result of property sales.

- Pre-tax profits were £17.8m, down from £49.5m in the corresponding 2011 period.

- Profits from the sale of players in the period were £40.9m, down from £63m in the same period in 2011.

- The club made a net profit of £22.6m in player trading compared to £45.8m a year ago.

- £40.9m was spent on contract extensions and buying new players last summer (this doesn’t include the new Wilshere / Walcott / etc deals).

- The exact wage bill was not quoted. Operating costs overall were £157.1m for the six months. For the year ending May 31 2012, operating costs were £259m.

- There is no short-term debt – debt continues to be repaid on schedule at a cost of around £20m a year.

- Turnover from football fell to £106.1 million (2011 – £113.5 million) as a consequence of there being four fewer home fixtures.

- Due to fewer home games in the period than in 2011, operating profits from football (before depreciation and player trading) decreased to £5m from £15m.

- Property revenue was £32.3m from the sale of the Queensland Road site. Overall operating profits from property increased to £1.9m from £0.5m.

- There is potential for around £15m of further profit from property development/sales.

- Arsenal owed other clubs £31.6m in transfer fees, but were owed £31.4m on player sales.

You can follow Phil on Twitter: @AngryOfN5or for longer, more coherent Arsenal stories, check out his blog Angry of Islington