Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward spoke at length on the club’s quarterly conference call about a number of issues.
United’s revenue shrank by almost 20 per cent in the year ending June 2020 compared to the previous financial year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The club posted total revenue of £509million for 2019-20, compared to record revenues of £627.1m in 2018-19, representing a drop of 18.8 per cent. The net debt more than doubled from the previous year to £474.1m.
“We are looking back today on what has been one of the most extraordinary and challenging seasons in recent history and I am proud of the way the club continues to respond.
“There are still big challenges and uncertainties ahead as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt our way of life across the globe. This disruption is clear to see in the financial results that we are announcing today and we expect the impact to remain visible for quite some time to come.
“However, the past year has also demonstrated the underlying strength and resilience of the club; the special role that sport plays in our societies; and the meaningful impact the club can make in our communities through this period of adversity.
“On the field, we will never be satisfied at Manchester United unless we are winning trophies. But our third-place finish in the Premier League and strong cup runs last season showed that, while there is more hard work ahead and the path is not always smooth, we are making progress.
“We have a clear strategy under Ole to build a successful, committed team, with a core of homegrown talent blended with high-quality recruits that plays fast flowing, attacking football.
“To that end, we are pleased with our recent additions to the first-team squad of Donny van de Beek and Alex Telles, two players we had been tracking as part of our recruitment process for a long period, and Edinson Cavani, a top striker who adds a new option to our forward line.
“We also welcome Facundo Pellistri and Amad Diallo, who will join in January, two exciting young prospects who we have also been scouted extensively. Added to the arrival of Bruno Fernandes earlier this year, these recruits underscore our continued commitment to strengthening the squad and take our net investment in new players since summer 2019 to over €200m – more, I believe, than any other major European club over that time period.
“We also continue to invest strongly in our thriving academy, whose graduates make up a third of our current first-team squad. The pipeline of new talent looks as exciting as ever, with Ole giving first-team debuts to eight academy graduates last season – the highest number since the Busby Babes were breaking through 68 years ago.
“This faith in youth remains an integral part of our identity as a club. Even with the addition of some more experienced players this month, our squad remains one of the youngest in the Premier League with an average age of 25. This means the team has potential for significant further improvement as our young players develop and mature.
“We are also tremendously excited by the progress being made by our Women’s team under Casey Stoney following the arrival of several new players this summer, including Tobin Heath and Christen Press, both two-time World Cup winners with the US national team.
“While our commitment to investment remains, it must be balanced with recognition of the extraordinarily challenging environment facing us and all football clubs at this time. Let me share a few initial observations on this summer’s transfer window:
– Gross transfer spending across the big five European leagues was down circa 40% this summer, driven by both a lower volume of transactions and lower average fees
– The contraction was also felt at the top-end of the market, with no transactions over €100m for the first time in 5 years; and an almost 30% reduction in the average fee for the top 30 transfers
– There was a material increase in the share of free transfers and loans (up over 20% and circa 30% respectively).
– At a club level, many of our peers were cautious, with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Juventus and PSG having a combined net spent of €9m; or a median net spend of €13m
– Of course there were one or two outliers the other way, most notably Chelsea, who were making up for not being able to be active during their transfer ban in summer 2019. But we need to look across multiple windows to gain a clearer perspective; and as I mentioned earlier our aggregate net investment over the last 3 transfer windows compares very favourably with our peers.
“The bottom line is we are investing and will continue to invest to back the manager.
“More recently, you may have read about the discussions taking place within English football about plans to address the near-term financial predicament created by the pandemic for clubs in the lower leagues. We have been playing an active role in those discussions because we strongly believe in supporting the English football pyramid, both in the short-term, to address the issues created by COVID-19, and in the long-term to improve financial sustainability at all levels of the game.
“There will always be intense debate around any changes to the structure of football, just as there was before the formation of the Premier League 28 years ago. Now, at this critical juncture for the game, we must ensure that the huge success of the Premier League is reinforced while ensuring that the wider football pyramid continues to thrive in a rapidly changing media environment.
“Achieving this will require strategic vision and leadership. We are pleased that the Premier League has committed to work together on a plan for the future structures and financing of English football. Now it must deliver on that promise, and we are committed to playing a leading role in pushing that process towards a successful outcome.
“Another crucial issue for the whole of football is the reopening of stadiums to spectators as soon as the government allows. While the situation in Greater Manchester and the UK as a whole continues to evolve, our plans for this are well advanced and we are confident of ours and the whole league’s ability to welcome them back in a safe, bio-secure environment.
“Crowds have been permitted to return to varying degrees in over 20 European countries, albeit with significant capacity restrictions to allow for social distancing, and we urge the UK government to follow these positive examples as soon as it is safe to do so.
“While we recognise that public health must always be the priority, what is needed is consistency of approach. If people are allowed to sit in a plane for hours, or in the cinema, or even watch football in a cinema, why not outside in a stadium environment which is professionally managed and controlled?
“If indoor concerts are allowed, why should outdoor, socially-distanced football fans be treated differently? Fans are the bedrock of this game and some of the inconsistencies out there are frustrating for them and for the clubs.
Sign up to our free MUFC email newsletter
Get the latest breaking Manchester United transfer news and analysis every day direct to your inbox with our free MUFC newsletter
“Finally, despite severe near-term pressures, created by the pandemic, we remain optimistic about the medium to long-term. Demand for live football around the world is strong; and our sustainable commercial model means we are very well placed to harness that growth, while continuing to pursue what will always be our number one priority: delivering success, entertainment and trophies on the pitch. “