Leicester City lose money but gain a trophy

IT has become very clear Leicester City have moved to the periphery of the Premier League top six, as evidenced by their title win in 2016 and FA Cup success in 2021. Their 2020-21 campaign was excellent, a first-time FA Cup win, beating Chelsea 1-0, and a top five placing. They have come a long way from the days when they were considered an underachieving, inconsistent club.

Yet despite the memorable triumph at Wembley stadium, Leicester City made a pre-tax loss for the third consecutive year, albeit half as much as 2019-20 when their deficit was £ 67.3 million. City’s loss of £ 33.1 million was partly due to the almost wipe-out of matchday income, which declined from £ 13.1 million to £ 0.5 million. The other contributory factor was a 22% increase in staff costs, with the wage bill rising to £ 191.2 million from £ 157.5 million.

Leicester’s turnover totalled £ 226.2 million, a 51% rise on 2019-20 and the seventh highest in the Premier League. Only once, 2016-17, have the club enjoyed a higher level of income. The club appears to have lost around £ 50 million in revenues during the two covid-affected seasons.

Media contributed the biggest slice of the pie, £ 184.5 million, representing 82% of total revenues. Aside from matchday earnings, the club’s commercial activities grew to a record £ 41.1 million (£29.3 million 2019-20).

The loss of matchday earnings and the increase in player compensation meant the wage-to-income ratio at Leicester was 84.9%, a substantial figure and one of the highest at the top level, but less than 2019-20’s enormous 105%. Importantly, it should be noted the rise in wages was partly due to deferred salaries. 

The club’s squad is currently valued at £ 462 million by Transfermarkt. In 2020-21, Kelechi Iheanacho, was the top scorer with 19 goals, ending a five-year run in which Jamie Vardy was leading marksman. Leicester have a number of players who would command decent transfer fees, such as Wifried Ndidi (£ 50 million-plus), Youri Tielemans (£50 million) and James Maddison (£ 45 million).

Leicester made a £43.9 million profit from player sales in 2020-21, compared to £ 63.1 million a year earlier. The profit was made almost entirely from the sale of England defender Ben Chilwell to Chelsea for £ 45 million. Leicester also went into the market, signing Wesley Fofana from Saint-Étienne for £ 31.5 million and Timothy Castagne for £ 18.5 million from Atalanta. Since rejoining the Premier in 2014 and up until the end of 2020-21, Leicester ranks as the eighth highest spender having paid out £ 473 million. 

The club is looking to expand the King Power Stadium, raising its capacity to around 40,000. The ground is currently valued at £ 41.5 million and has a crowd limit of 32,000. Leicester have also made investments in Leicester City Women FC and new training facilities, as well as spending £ 2.1 million on the King Power pitch.

There’s no doubt Leicester City benefits from having generous and responsible owners, but the club now owes them £ 180 million. Gross debt now runs to £ 287.6 million, but with cash increasing by 24% to £ 50.9 million, net debt totals £ 236.8 million, some 33% higher than 2020.  

The club has examined its cash flow forecasts and the conclusion is that it is still reliant on external bank funding and its holding company, King Power International (KPI). Leicester entered into a five-year £ 42.5 million loan with KPI and has also replaced its £ 52.5 million loan from Macquarie Bank with an £ 80 millian, four-year facility. There is also an undrawn £ 35 million standby loan with KPI for use in severe circumstances.

The current season hasn’t gone as planned and their league form has deteriorated. They were also humbled in the FA Cup by midlands rivals Nottingham Forest, but they are still in the UEFA Europa League and will play Rennes in the last 16. Football’s fickle nature has been underlined once more by some calls for manager Brendan Rodgers to be replaced just nine months after winning the FA Cup, but the Leicester board recently gave him a vote of confidence. Oh dear. 

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