Some of you will have seen the Imps have released the accounts for 2019/20, incorporating one of the most challenging periods in the club’s history.
I have been lucky enough to get a copy for perusal and wanted to pick out some key points for you all, but I think the most pertinent point wasn’t actually made by the numbers but by football finance expert Kieran Maguire. For those who do not know, he is also known as ‘The Price of Football’ and regularly comments on financial events within the industry. Why are his comments pertinent, equally as much as the actual numbers? For one tweet.
Lincoln publish accounts and continue to set a gold standard in terms of transparency & governance. Revenue up 20% as Cowley compensation & higher broadcast income on back of promotion offsets Covid impact. #Imps pic.twitter.com/hHDzcIgZIf
— PriceOfFootball (@KieranMaguire) January 13, 2021
Why do I want to start with this? This quote alone: “Lincoln publish accounts and continue to set a gold standard in terms of transparency & governance.” After watching our only 12 fit senior outfield players thrash Accrington last night, you might be misled into thinking Gold Standard applied to the playing staff and forget to apply it to the board and governance too. I think it is important not to forget that, not at all. Look, I can go on and on about how great our club is, get called a club stooge or whatever, but Keiran Maguire (an industry leader in football finance, a lecturer at Liverpool University and someone who will call out bad practice) says your club is doing something well, your club is doing something well.
Moving on, I am not a finance expert, so I have to digest this information slowly and as a layman. I did actually start taking my AAT, I skipped the first year as I had done my HNC in Business and Finance, but the second year proved to be challenging (not least because my attendance plummetted to 30%) and I was sacked by the company funding it before I could get the benefit. Shame. Still, I do know a little bit about Lincoln City, so found it interesting reading, nonetheless.
The first big headline was the increase in turnover, from £5.39m in our title-winning season to £6.55m the following campaign. That is mainly due to the ‘sale’ of two of our prized assets, Danny and Nicky Cowley, who came with a £1m compensation. That contributed to the club’s net loss being ‘just’ £0.89m rather than the £2.24m of the year before. I would like to suggest that even without the management moving on, the net loss has still dropped. Bearing in mind gate revenue dropped as well, this is a huge positive for the club. The commercial department also continued to improve, despite the problems Covid presents, generating an extra 13% from the previous year to a total of £1.374m. Matchday turnover dropped, as you would imagine from the loss of four matches. In 2019, matchday turnover was £2.3m, whereas in 2020 in dropped to £1.8m
Remember, when we talk about wages, we talk about the staff as well as players, and bonuses as well. The club brand this section as ‘Investing in People’, and under this heading, they point out all players who were members of the 2019 title-winning squad had increases written into their contracts which affected the 19/20 accounts. Whilst the January window will have seen some easing of that situation, the true value of the savings might not be evident until next year, when they may be masked by some other rather more significant issues. Anyhow, in 18/19 the club spent £4.87m on people (across the board, that’s not the pro budget or anything), whereas in 19/20 that went up to £5.15m
Interestingly, the average attendance fell in 19/20, from 9,006 in 18/19 to 8,986 the following season. Bearing in mind we lost four home matches, Coventry, Doncaster, Wimbledon and Wycombe, the club believe we were on course to increase the average to 9,150. Now, there are a couple of other explanations for slight dips in attendance. One is the change of manager, whilst we might now be aware of Michael’s potential, some supporters might have felt they were not attracted to fixtures such as MK Dons on a Tuesday night after a few defeats, which would have an impact. Also, we missed a couple of local derbies as well, Grimsby and Mansfield to be exact, and a potentially big game such as Portsmouth had to be played on a Tuesday night as well. I guess losing 20 supporters from the average over a two-year period isn’t too bad, especially when the club feel would have grown slightly had fixtures been completed. Certainly, the Doncaster game could have drawn 10,000, maybe Coventry too, but Wimbledon and Wycombe perhaps not so much.
It is worth noting at this point that one of the headlines from the account relates to supporters, with 80% of the 6,200 season ticket holders opting not to take their money out of the club. This was a big deal in our summer, not just in terms of survival, but also Michael’s recruitment, the benefits of which we are seeing on the field now. In his statement on the accounts, Clive says the cashflow benefitted from £341k from that decision, an important sum. I know from the club insiders I chat to, the impact of that generosity cannot be understated, and it may be by some. There is a reason that the praise from the club is there, but not always headline news – some supporters may have been able to leave their money with the club, but others might have found it a struggle and the club always want to ensure they do not suggest that a fan forced to take their money back is in any way inferior to someone who did not. That isn’t in these notes, it isn’t in the accounts, but the club is acutely aware of every word they say and how it may be perceived, and whilst they will always express huge gratitude to supporters, they will also be very careful about not making any feel inferior.
Over the summer, the club received an injection of share capital from supporters, as we covered in the last section, but these accounts also reveal that those in charge of the club have played their part. they are less inclined to shout about that, this isn’t a club run by a ‘look at me’ group like that lot up the A46. However, the club’s Parent Company and private investors continued to play their part. All contributions from directors and other investors continued to be through equity and these investments, together with the shares taken up by supporters, meant an increase of share capital by £1.6m over the financial year. I’m happy to be corrected, but if the supporter’s ST decision led to a £341k benefit, that means the other investment came to around £1.25m. Do bear that in mind, that the hard work at board level includes the sort of capital that is eye-watering to you and I.
One of the items Kieran Maguire noticed was the club spending around £380k on players in 2019/20, which would doubtless include the likes of Tom Hopper (and for those who are thinking they’re smart, that wouldn’t be his entire fee). when you consider this includes players signed in the January window, such as Tayo Edun and Anthony Scully, as well as those assigned after June 2019, such as Jorge Grant, it’s a reasonable figure. You can also find details of our profit from player trading, almost half-a-million-pounds (£496,947 to be exact). That would include Harry Toffolo’s fee, one would imagine, and suggest to me that in fact we turned over around £876,000, given the club spend added to the trading profit. Maybe I’m wrong, but it does seemingly suggest good business all round, especially when it hasn’t been to the detriment of the squad.
I admit to being a layman and I confess to applying the knowledge of others (Kieran Maguire) as well as the handily laid out notes to this article. I cannot find something hidden away in there, even if it was, because I read words, not numbers. What I do know is the club are open and transparent, and that despite the financial picture not being great right now, we are in good hands. The reduction in the loss is huge, even with the Cowley money, and why would that be a disclaimer anyway? Maybe, manger trading is just as viable as an income stream as player trading and to have a chunky buyout clause certainly left us in a good place for Michael taking over. These accounts tell a story, not a definitive story, not one with a start or an end, but they demonstrate a clear financial sensibility around the club, and a willingness to be open and transparent about exactly what goes on. I respect that, and so do people involved in the wider football world.
Onwards and upwards!