Exploring the finances of the Premier League

Find out about our new interactive tool that lets you explore the finances and debt of your favourite Premier League team and their surrounding areas.

John Ellmore Last updated on 16 November 2020.
Exploring the finances of the Premier League

Money and football, football and money. Whichever way you slice it, the two go hand in hand – from the small-town club raising funds to renew their kit, to the multi-millions spent on transfers in the Premier League.

Take a look around any pub you like, and you'll see some passionate footie fans propping up the bar, casually discussing the latest transfer rumours – and the huge pots of cash that will go along with them. Transfers here, loans there, sponsorships throughout. Football today is as much about the money as it is about the game itself.

Yet ask those same fans for their opinion on their own finances – or the financial status of their friends and family – and you're not likely to get an open, honest or even polite response. The same is true of men and women across Britain of every age, cultural background and economic bracket.

In other words, we Brits are happy enough to discuss big Premier League club finances until the cows come home. But ask us to start up an open, honest conversation about our own monetary situation, and we tend to be much more reluctant.

British people have huge hang ups when it comes to talking about their debts and money struggles – and in many cases, that's perfectly understandable. Nonetheless, it still contrasts with that curiosity about Premier League finances – especially when you consider that these huge football clubs often have massive debts of their own.

How do Premier League debts match up to our personal debts?

Although we've highlighted the difference between the attitude people in Britain have towards personal and club debts, the reality is that the correlation between the levels of debt at Premier League clubs, and the personal debt of those postcode areas closest to football stadiums, can sometimes be closer than you might think.

It is not a blanket rule, as you can see for yourself if you explore your team’s local area with our tool. But where Manchester United and their neighbours both sit at the top of the debt league tables, equally there are teams like Norwich City and Sheffield where both team and neighbourhood sit well beneath the excess spending of their peers.

It’s interesting to note the impact that living near a stadium might have on an individual’s finances. For instance, those living in close proximity to Newcastle’s St James’ Park have around 86% less debt than their neighbours, whereas those living around Watford’s Vicarage Road have almost 95% more.

Look closer at the football teams around London especially, and the correlation between their stadium locations and high household debt becomes clear. There are seven areas where people living near a stadium are in more debt than their neighbours, and five are home to London teams – Watford, Crystal Palace, Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea. These are all teams whose surrounding postcode areas have higher household debt than the zone average.

You can use our Back of the Debt tool to look into your team’s area, and see how their debts match up to that of the postcode zone they’re located in. It's not all just for fun, though – if you take onboard some of the financial lessons that football teams can inspire in us, you might well find yourself a little more financially savvy overall.

Ready to kick off your financial success?

One thing that became apparent as we developed our tool is that some of the biggest debts in the Premier League are surprising, and show that even the biggest clubs in the world can run into some staggering amounts of debt when they splash their cash.

Manchester United is a famous example – a team that's celebrated worldwide, and certainly not short of money – but also a team with a staggering £495,800,000 of debt. That’s almost as much as every Manchester postcode combined.

Perhaps less well-known still is that Chelsea FC owes its owner more than £1 billion, and being a London-based club, that correlation with household debt is definitely noticeable too. While the team’s debt amounts to more than double the combined debt of nearly 900,000 people living in the SW area, neighbours are also spending more than the average, with those living next to Stamford Bridge dealing with 13% more debt than other people in their area.

The world’s biggest football teams are able to run up huge debts because unlike those of us who have to prove our ability to repay, lenders are happy to let these popular teams keep borrowing regardless.

Definitely get stuck into our tool to see how your postcode weighs up in the personal debt to local football stadium debt ratio – and dive into our Back of the Debt roundup to explore more how you can use football to inspire your financial success.

About the author:

John Ellmore is a director of NerdWallet UK and is a company spokesperson for consumer finance issues. John is committed to providing clear, accurate and transparent financial information. Read more

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