Parachute eases the discomfort for Huddersfield Town

HUDDERSFIELD Town, in their first post-Premier campaign in 2019-20, might have suffered greater financial challenges had it not been for their first parachute payments after relegation.

The Terriers made a pre-tax loss of £ 8.2 million in 2019-20 but their operating loss for the year was £ 22.7 million, a movement of around £ 24 million from 2018-19’s operating profit of £ 1.2 million. 

Nevertheless, Huddersfield’s turnover, at £ 52.7 million, was the third highest in the Championship in 2019-20 with only Leeds United (£54.2m) and West Bromwich Albion (£53.7m) higher. Whereas Leeds and Albion both won promotion in 2020, Huddersfield finished 18th in the Championship and they went on to finished two places lower in 2021.

The club’s turnover fell by 55.8% to £ 52.7 million, ending a two-year period where income was well over £ 100 million. The biggest revenue loss was in broadcasting/media, which dropped by 57% from £ 104.3 million to £ 44.7 million. Although this is a dramatic decline, they still generated the highest media income in the Championship, clearly boosted by the parachute payments, which should exceed £ 90 million over a three-year period.

Huddersfield’s wage bill for 2019-20 was £ 30.3 million, with the wage-to-income ratio 57%, the second lowest in the Championship. Rotherham United was the lowest at 56%. This compares very favourably to most of the club’s rivals, notably Reading (211%), Brentford (186%) and Wigan (168%). 

In 2019-20, only five clubs had a wage-to-income figure of less than 100%. When Huddersfield were last in the Championship, their wages regularly went above total revenues, notably in 2017 when staff costs were 137% of turnover, but since relegation, they have knocked more than £ 30 million per season off their staff costs.

The operating loss was eased by £ 18.1 million profit from player sales, thanks to the transfers of Philip Billing (£15m to Bournemouth), Tommy Smith (£4m Stoke) and Aaron Mooy (£3m Brighton). Since leaving the Premier League in 2019, Huddersfield have spent £ 12 million in the market and received £ 54 million for player disposals. At the same time, the club has increasingly tried to tap into players produced by its academy.

Relegation doesn’t appear to have affected public appetite for Huddersfield Town too much, though. Their average gate before covid-19 stopped football as a spectator sport was just 6% down on 2018-19.  The club’s social media following across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter is in excess of 600,000.                                               

The club, sensibly, is aiming to become debt free, but at present, owes former chairman Dean Hoyle £ 34 million and there is almost £ 24 million due to other lenders. Cash at bank totalled £ 10.6 million for 2019-20 versus £ 13.8 million in 2018-19.

Huddersfield fans have been disappointed with the club’s performance on the field since rejoining the Championship, particularly as their wage bill is more reflective of a mid-table team. 

The concerning thing is that the 2020-21 accounts may not make good reading given the Terriers, like all clubs, have gone through an entire season with very little income from matchday. Huddersfield will not be the only club facing challenges, but in the meantime, prudence and careful decision-making will be a prerequisite as football braces itself for the financial impact of covid-19 in 2020-21.

Photo: Alamy

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