Liverpool in profit again, but expenses are high

THE 2021-22 season was a remarkable campaign for Liverpool; two domestic trophies and two near-misses, including a third UEFA Champions League final in five years. It was arguably a year that took so much out of Liverpool’s squad – 63 games across all competitions – they have struggled to recover in 2022-23. It could also have signalled the beginning of the end of Jürgen Klopp’s great Liverpool side.

Given the success on the pitch, it was reasonable to suggest the club should avoid making a third-successive loss, albeit in the form of a modest £ 7.3 million pre-tax profit. Liverpool generated record revenues of £ 594 million, the highest since the pre-pandemic days of 2018-19 (£ 533 million). This figure was just £ 19 million lower than Manchester City’s £ 613 million and was a shade higher than Manchester United’s £ 583 million. The only other club to earn more was Real Madrid, whose income totalled £ 605 million. 

Liverpool’s expenses were high in 2021-22, however, totalling £ 545 million (92% of turnover). Within that, players’ wages went up by 17% to £ 366 million, which equates to 62% of income. The increase was largely attributable to the team’s success, which would have surely generated performance bonuses.

Total wages were, however, more than Manchester City’s £ 353 million, but lower than United’s £ 384 million. Since 2017, Liverpool’s wage bill has increased by 76% and operating costs for Anfield have risen by 40% in the past five years. As recently as 2019-20, expenses consumed 101% of income, partly due to the impact of the pandemic.

The biggest source of income in 2021-22 was broadcasting, which contributed £ 261 million (44%) and was slightly lower than 2020-21. Commercial income, at £ 247 million, was 14% higher than the previous year, boosted by a number of new partnerships and sponsorship deals. Matchday came in at £ 86 million, representing a return to normal conditions after the restrictions of covid-19 which almost wiped out the revenue stream.

While some Liverpool fans may be frustrated by a relatively tepid transfer policy in the past year, the club has spent heavily on infrastructure projects to the tune of £ 250 million over the past five years, including the £ 88 million expansion of the Anfield Road stand that will increase the capacity of the stadium to 61,000. In 2021-22, Liverpool’s average attendance was 53,027 – the fifth highest in the Premier League.

Liverpool spent £ 73.5 million on players in 2021-22 and raised £ 46.6 million from sales. The net outlay for the season, according to Transfermarkt, was € 57.45 million, the ninth highest in the Premier League. Gross outlay was € 95.90 million, compared to Arsenal’s € 167 million, Manchester United’s € 142 million and Manchester City’s € 138 million. 

Transfermarkt values Liverpool’s squad, which has an average age of 26.5 and comprises 70% foreign players, at € 931 million. By comparison, only two clubs have higher squad values: Manchester City and Chelsea, both valued at € 1.08bn.

Liverpool’s external net debt amounts to £ 74.6 million, while they still owe £ 71.4 million to the Fenway Group of the £ 110 million lent to the club for the building of the Anfield’s new main stand.

Liverpool’s owners have come in for criticism from the fans this season due to the lack of success, but Fenway announced in 2022 they were open to fresh investment from outside parties, but they recently said the club is not for sale at the moment. As we have seen at other clubs, when things are not going well, an owner can become unpopular very quickly after being praised for their approach when the trophies roll in. Careful what you wish for, they say…

The Boot Room Boys

INTERESTINGLY, Liverpool Football Club’s managerial heroes were not from the city of Liverpool. Bill Shankly was a Scot, Bob Paisley from the north-east, Kenny Dalglish is another child of Glasgow. Moreover, many of their most influential players have been from other parts of Britain: Ian St. John, Ron Yeats, Kevin Keegan, Dalglish, Ian Rush and John Barnes, to name but a few. The club’s golden age, in the mid-1970s to late 1980s, was built on adopting a more fluid European style of football, taught to them by Red Star Belgrade in 1973-74. And today’s talismanic coach, Jürgen Klopp, is from Stuttgart. 

While the sceptics criticise Liverpool for being an insular, siege mentality club, their influences are far and wide and were more cosmopolitan than their rivals for a long time. Some clubs have tried to adhere to a way of playing that epitomised their culture, but invariably, this has held them back. You could argue Tottenham, Manchester United and West Ham United, among others, were haunted by visions of their footballing past, a house-style that was mostly a myth. Liverpool modified their approach in the mid-1970s at a time when the Dutch and Germans were peddling “total football”. And these changes were formulated in a small corner of Anfield known as the Boot Room.

The BT film, The Boot Room Boys, is a delightful story about a corner of Anfield that will forever be part of the club’s DNA. The image is of a group of ageing men, beer bottles in hand, chatting over the finer points of the game, but this informal setting provided the backdrop for the likes of Shankly and Paisley to build togetherness, common goals and fresh ideas. 

No matter what you think of Liverpool, it was always hard not to respect and admire what they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Yes, they could be machine-like at times, but they were also brilliant and could improvise with the best of them.

Success breeds arrogance in football, but it was not a sentiment you found on the pitch with Liverpool’s players – well, not very often. Shankly was a caricature in many ways, but Paisley was like everyone’s favourite uncle, arrogance was never associated with either, although Shankly could be a poor loser sometimes. 

Yet Shankly was clearly a special person, somebody who created the only true British football management dynasty: from Shankly to Paisley, to Fagan, to Dalglish. It is doubtful if any manager has left such an enduring mark on a club – not even Matt Busby. While so many iconic managers have left behind a club desperately trying to live up to the standards of the departing icon, Liverpool went on to even greater things post-Shankly. That somebody as unassuming as Paisley could succeed his mentor said as much about the strength of the foundations.

What was so good about the Boot Room Boys was the way it told the real story of how the club became a European force to be feared. Watch it, and come away with a very different opinion about Liverpool Football Club.