Millwall income rises, but wages are still too high

THE EFFECT of the pandemic on football clubs may be subsiding, but the EFL’s basket case, the Championship, remains a division treading on the edge of a volcano. Wages are perilously high and clubs are very dependent on their owners to ensure they remain a going concern.

Millwall announced their 2021-22 financial figures and the good news was a 50% increase in turnover, from £12.5 million to £18.6 million. The return of fans to home games at the Den meant their matchday income went up by over 400% to £ 5.8 million (2021 – £ 1.4 million), the main driver of the growth of overall revenues. The average gate at the Den, which is 30 years old in 2023, has yet to return to pre-Covid levels, but they are not far off now. Millwall’s fanbase is renowned for its intense loyalty as well as its heated passion.

The other main streams remained stable in 2021-22, broadcasting (central league awards) came in at £ 9.1 million (10% up on 2020-21) and commercial rose by 37% to £ 3.7 million. Player sales, which have rarely yielded much for Millwall, posted a loss of £ 106,000.

Millwall made an overall pre-tax loss of £12.6 million, albeit slightly down on 2021’s £ 13.8 million. Compared to many clubs at Millwall’s level, their losses are relatively modest, but they are competing in a division where boards and owners are willing to gamble on promotion by paying high wages that are mostly unsustainable.

Millwall are one of the lowest cash generators in the Championship, so it is a major challenge to compete with opponents who are just out of the Premier League. They are also operating in a city awash with football clubs. The club’s neighbourhood, which has a very varied demographic, has a relatively high poverty rate.

Millwall have lost money every season for the past decade, in fact, the last time the club turned a profit before tax was in 2002. Losses have widened in the past three years for obvious reasons, but net debt came down slightly in 2021-22 to £ 15.4 million.

Millwall – key figures 2021-22

Revenues£ 18.6 million
P&L pre-tax(£12.6 million)
Wage bill£ 22.3 million
Average gate12,998
OwnersChestnut Hill Ventures. USA

Millwall’s wage bill went up to £ 22.3 million from £ 20.8 million, representing 120% of income. This was a substantial improvement on 2020-21 when the ratio hit 167%. Over the past 10 years, Millwall’s wages have doubled, while revenues have gone up by 45%. The club currently has a relatively small squad compared to its peers, but is also committed to developing its own talent – of the 41 contracted players across all levels, 22 have emerged from the youth academy.

In 2021-22, transfer market activity was modest with Millwall adding experience to the squad in the form of George Long and George Saville from Middlesbrough and Scott Malone from Derby County.

Millwall have come through the pandemic and in 2022-23, they are enjoying a reasonable season which could see them make the play-offs for a place in the Premier League. That would be a considerable achievement for the club and for manager Gary Rowett.

State of Play: Stoke City – a club in exile

STOKE CITY have been in a better place than they are today and not many people are predicting they will win promotion from the Championship in 2022-23. The “experts” believe Stoke will finish just above mid-table, which will be progress on the past four seasons and the best placing since they were relegated from the Premier League in 2018.

The current campaign will be their fifth since then, there is a danger they are getting too comfortable at that level. The pandemic hasn’t helped them, but then it has been a struggle for many Championship clubs given the trend of the second-tier clubs paying far too much out in wages in a bid to win a place in the promised land of the Premier. Stoke, in 2020-21, saw their wage-to-income ratio jump to 119%, their second successive season when player expenses went above 100%. Again, the pandemic has to be considered, but it underlines the precarious nature of football club finance.

Despite having one of the Championship’s highest wage bills, Stoke were 14th in 2021-22 and 2020-21. In their four Championship seasons since relegation, they have never finished higher and have seldom looked like promotion candidates.
To see our latest State of Play, click here