A football finance expert has warned Blackpool Football Club’s latest accounts demonstrate the challenges that lie ahead.
The report shows the club made a loss of £1.4m during the financial year covering the 2017/18 League One season.
This was a loss of £75,000-a-week, a shortfall that would have been even higher had the club not made £1.8m from selling Brad Potts and Bright Osayi-Samuel.
The club also suffered a huge drop in its year-end cash balance, which dropped from £6m to £369,000 for the financial year up to June 30, 2018.
This, according to football finance expert Kieran Maguire, put the Seasiders in quite a “precarious” position ahead of the 2018/19 campaign, where Pool were boosted by their cup runs before the eventual removal of the Oyston family.
“The one good thing you can say about the Oystons is that they actually ran a fairly tight ship,” Maguire told The Gazette.
“That’s obviously a bad thing as well as they focused on generating money for themselves.
“But they did run the club as a business but eventually, given the boycott and the club slipping down the divisions, it meant that the losses started to materialise.
“Now the club is in a position of a fairly standard lower league club where it’s tough to make ends meet.
“I’m sure that fans will hope that will reverse itself this season given the boycott will no longer be there and more money will be coming in through the turnstiles.
“But even so, I think it’s going to be quite a tough year for the new owner.
“I don’t know what his plans are or what sort of budget he is going to make available to the manager, but it’s difficult to make money in the lower leagues unless you’ve got parachute payments and big player sales.”
Maguire, a senior teacher in accountancy at the University of Liverpool and the man behind the PriceOfFootball Twitter account, warns this season might just be a case of re-stabilising after years of turmoil under the previous regime.
“The one success for Blackpool in 2018 was the £1.8m they made from player sales,” he added.
“But the club’s cash collapsed from £6m to £300,000 or so, and given that was at the end of June that’s after money from season ticket sales and you’ve still got the wages for July to pay. Clearly the club was in a fairly precarious position.
“But, comparing the accounts to other League One clubs, there are some big clubs in the division who will spend a lot of money because they have owners who are prepared to splash to cash to a greater degree.
“Blackpool’s wage bill was a long way behind some of the clubs at the top, so I think it might be a tough season on the field.
“But I think fans won’t be too bothered about that, they’ll just be glad their club belongs to them once more.”
Gate receipts plummeted during the 2017/18 campaign, almost halving from the previous year’s accounts.
Just £376,042 was brought in due to the ‘Not A Penny More’ campaign, compared to £660,764 the previous year.
That, Maguire says, should resolve itself now the fans have ended their four-year protest.
“Gate receipts are not huge in the lower leagues, but you would hope at Blackpool they will go up quite significantly now,” he said.
“They were making close to £1m in gate receipts about two or three years ago, but that’s now dropped to £370,000 because the boycott was fairly well followed.
“Total gate receipts, if you include season tickets as well, were £640,000 which should go above £1m this year because of the huge goodwill feeling.
“That should help stem the losses on a day-to-day basis.”
Things are looking a lot more positive on and off the field for the football club under the stewardship of Blackpool-born, lifelong fan Simon Sadler.
But Maguire believes Sadler will need to invest a significant level to realise his ambition of returning to the Championship.
“I think it’s a case of the new owner finding out what are the costs of running a football club and trying to stabilise events on and off the field,” Maguire said.
“I think if they’ve got ambition of being promoted to the Championship then they will clearly have to invest more on the playing side.
“While you can get promoted without spending too much on transfer fees because there are plenty of good players available on bosmans and loans, players do expect to be rewarded.
“Given that Sunderland and Ipswich are both in that division with pretty big budgets, I think it’s going to be a tough season on the pitch.
“But provided fans are realistic with their expectations, that they now have a club they can identify with, mid-table in League One will be fine and then ideally push on in 12 month’s time.
“The alternative, of course, is that there is such a goodwill factor which the players and management team are buoyed by and all of a sudden the club is competing higher up the division.
“It will be a voyage of discovery for the owner and there will be good things, but also things crawling out of the woodwork as well given the nature of how the club was related to some of the other Oyston companies.”