ABERDEEN FOOTBALL CLUB may be in third place in the Scottish Premiership this season, but they are still way behind the Glasgow duo, Celtic and Rangers. After a disappointing campaign in 2021-22, in which Aberdeen finished 10th, their lowest position in a decade, the Dons have regained their place as Scotland’s third club, but their finances reveal just how far behind the big two they are.
Aberdeen’s turnover in 2021-22 totalled £ 13.9 million, a 25% increase on 2020-21. Their pre-tax loss was £ 2.2 million, marginally less than the previous season, largely because their wage bill was up by 10% to £ 10.3 million, representing 75% of income, and other costs climbed by almost £ 2 million to £ 7.6 million. In 2020-21, the wage-to-income ratio was 85%. While the wage bill was more than high enough for the club, it is a fraction of the amount Celtic and Rangers pay their players. Celtic’s salaries totalled £ 58.9 million while Rangers’ were just four million lower than their fierce rivals.
Aberdeen’s income showed a 35% increase in commercial activity, from £ 5.4 million to £ 7.3 million, the biggest contributor – 52.5% – to the club’s turnover. Matchday revenues totalled £ 3 million and were up from £ 2 million, while broadcasting amounted to £ 3.6 million, slightly down on the previous year.
The club has recognised the need to develop a smarter approach in the transfer market. In 2021-22, their profit from player sales was just £ 1 million, barely a third of the profit generated a year earlier. However, this did not include the summer sales of Calvin Ramsey to Liverpool (£ 4.2 million) and Lewis Ferguson to Bologna (£ 3.1 million), which will appear in the 2022-23 statement. Aberdeen also want to focus more on developing their own talent, creating a model similar to some of Europe’s top player traders.
Aberdeen chairman, Dave Cormack, believes the 2021-22 financials demonstrate the club is bouncing back after the pandemic. However, the operating loss totalled £ 5.29 million and net debt stands at £ 3.6 million. There is positive momentum, though, and the club sold record numbers of season tickets for 2022-23.
A new stadium is being planned, which could elevate Aberdeen to a new level. The scheme, which may be part of a significant shoreline regeneration, would cost around £ 80 million and have a capacity of between 16,000 and 20,000. This is not the first concept to be tabled, the club had previously received approval for a ground at Kingsford, but the beach stadium – promoted by the local authority – could have far more financial impact. Cormack said that the most successful regeneration projects always have a centrepiece and the new football arena will provide just that.
Research has suggested the project would provide 260 jobs and £ 6 million in salaries to the community as well as £ 14.3 million of gross value added. Over 50 years, the new stadium could add £ 1 billion into the local economy. Furthermore, Aberdeen envisage that visitors to the area will increase by some 300,000 from the current level of 450,000 per year. Planners have used the redevelopment of Perth that accompanied the construction of St. Johnstone’s McDiarmid Park as an example of what can be achieved.
Solar panels are expected to dominate Aberdeen’s stadium roof and the planners are hoping for a net zero outcome. The first minister of Scotland has aspirations for Aberdeen to become the first net zero city in Europe.
However, no major development comes without hurdles and already, the local council have ruled out public cash being used. This has changed the mood and some are now revisiting the idea of a move to Kingsford. Others believe the council has let the club down, especially as they made a proposal for Aberdeen to remain in the city in the first place.
Aberdeen will be hoping the club returns to European football in 2023-24 after missing out in 2022. They had eight consecutive campaigns in the Europa League between 2014-15 and 2021-22. At the moment, that looks very possible, but longer term, a new stadium can help the Dons close the gap on the Glasgow giants.