Crystal Palace lose £ 40m but fresh impetus may be on its way

CRYSTAL PALACE finished in a comfortable 12th place in the Premier League in 2021-22, two places up on the 2020-21 season which proved to be manager Roy Hodgson’s last year at Selhurst Park. Hodgson was replaced by former Arsenal and France midfielder Patrick Vieira, and in addition to the credible league placing, Palace also reached the last four of the FA Cup in his first campaign in charge.

The 2020-21 campaign saw Palace make a pre-tax loss of £ 40.2 million, somewhat better than the £ 57.9 million deficit of the previous season. The club estimated the covid-19 pandemic cost them £ 21. 5 million across two seasons. It should be noted that Palace’s 2020-21 figures are based on an 11-month timeframe rather than the usual 12 months.

Palace’s turnover was down from £ 142.3 million to £ 134.4 million, a drop of around 5%. Although broadcasting revenues increased by 4% to £ 117.3 million, matchday income was wiped out (just £ 0.2 million versus £ 8.6 million in 2019-20), and the commercial stream fell by almost 20% to £ 16.9 million. Their commercial earnings are a fraction of their London rivals – West Ham’s are double and Palace’s £ 14 million is just 10% of the amount generated by Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham. Matchday income, in a normal season, should produce more than £ 10 million, which is still very modest.

Palace’s total wage bill totalled £ 127 million, down by more than 4% and representing a wage-to-income ratio of 94%. Football finance guru Kieran Maguire calculated that Palace’s average weekly wage in 2020-21 was £ 64,400, which equates to a mid-table placing. Although one of the lowest spenders in the Premier League, Palace did pay £ 16 million for QPR’s Eberechi Eze, a transfer that may look better as time progresses. The club’s profit on player sales totalled £ 9.6 million, a considerable improvement on 2019-20. Meanwhile, the Palace academy has been producing a stream of promising talent and in 2020-21 a number of players started to emerge.

However, Palace continue to lose money on an annual basis and were losing £ 1 million per week in 2020-21. Continued membership of the Premier League is vital to the club, but the financial situation will surely be improved by the arrival of John Textor as investor, director and partner. As Steve Parish, the club’s chairman, said: “We have been looking for the right investor and right investment for some time.” The impact of Textor’s involvement will doubtless reveal itself in 2021-22’s financials. Textor, from Missouri, USA, is a majority shareholder at Brazilian club Botafogo and Belgium’s Molenbeek.

Palace are somewhat hampered by a relatively low level of matchday income and despite Selhurst being a popular venue with home and away fans, the ground does need an overhaul. There is a proposed programme that will raise the capacity of the stadium from 25,486 to 34,259 highlighted by a glass frontage that reflects the club’s history. The plan is to start work on the £ 100 million scheme late in 2022, although there have been a number of hurdles for the club. A revitalised Selhurst Park may be the springboard the club needs to step up to the next level and challenge for a European slot.