Time for Stoke City to unload and reset

THREE years into their post-Premier League career, Stoke City’s financial position still needs attention. The Potters’ net loss for 2019-20 was £86.3 million, a sizeable figure for a club that generated less than £ 50 million in a difficult campaign for football. Since relegation, Stoke’s losses have topped £ 100 million.

A significant percentage of their 2019-20 deficit is attributable to £ 30 million ofamortisation costs, the devaluation of players over the course of their contracts. Furthermore, the club’s net liabilities increased from £ 66 million to more than £ 150 million.

The really concerning figures, though, come from the club’s wage bill, which totalled £ 53 million in 2019-20, 106% of Stoke’s overall income. Although wages have come down from £ 94 million in the club’s last Premier League season, they are clearly still too high at £ 1 million per week. Only Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion had bigger average weekly wages in the division. The club is in need of some scaling-back of its squad, but they may have to wait until the summer of 2022 when some notable contracts come to an end.

Stoke’s high wage bill is not a great surprise, even two years after relegation. The squad was expensively assembled, costing in excess of £ 170 million, much more than their Championship rivals. Transfermarkt estimates that the current squad is worth £ 50 million in the market. In 2019-20, Stoke made just £ 3.2 million from player trading, compared to £ 18 million a year earlier and £22 million in 2017-18.

Total revenues for 2019-20 were £ 49.8 million, some 30% down on 2018-19.  According to the club’s calculations, Stoke’s covid-19 losses amounted to £ 38 million. Most main revenue streams were down, understandable give the current climate. Matchday income totalled £ 4.8 million (2019 – £ 6.4m), while commercial increased to £ 13.8 million. Media income, boosted by parachute payments, was £ 31.2 million, representing 60%-plus of total revenues. 

In five years, Stoke City’s turnover has more than halved. In both 2018 and 2017, the club’s total income was well over £ 100 million, peaking at £ 136 million in 2017. Matchday income has fallen from the club’s Premier League days and broadcasting has also declined, a reflection of Stoke’s status. 

The Potters have now completed three seasons in the Championship after a decade in the top flight. When they were first relegated, they were considered to be favourites to return to the Premier, but with another final placing below the halfway mark (14th) in 2020-21, Stoke are anticipating a fourth consecutive season in the second tier of English football – a season which will also mark the 50th anniversary of Stoke’s 1972 Football League Cup triumph.

Stoke is, by tradition, a club that struggles to maintain a place at the highest level, but during their stint in the Premier League, they were remarkable consistent and before 2018 when they went down, they had never finished lower than 14th and had enjoyed a top half place for three successive years. How they must hanker for those days today.

@GameofthePeople

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