Suarez, Barcelona and Liverpool’s Potential £70m+ Transfer Profit


July 4, 2014

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With Luis Suarez now reportedly close to moving to Barcelona for a reported £70-80m, this blog aims to shed light on how clubs account for the sale and purchase of players and why it is important for Financial Fair Play (FFP) compliance. I have previously written on the value of the David Luiz transfer to PSG which can be accessed here. Parts of that blog are republished here to explain the transfer amortisation accounting process.

How Purchasing Clubs Account for their Spending

In sexy accounting speak “when a player is purchased, his cost is capitalised on the balance sheet and is written-down (amortised) over the length of his contract.” In laymen’s terms, transfer fees for accounting purposes are spread over the length of a players’ contract. If we take Barcelona’s proposed purchase of Suarez as an example, £75m over a five year contract is amortised by a club in its accounts to the value of £15m per season.

A transfer occurring in the summer after the 2013-14 season (depending on Barcelona’s accounting year-end) will have an impact on a club trying to break-even for FFP purposes in subsequent seasons. As noted above, Barcelona will amortise Suarez’s transfer fee over the length of his contract. If we assume a 5 year contract, Barcelona will have 4 further £15m amortisation charges in their 15-16, 16-17, 17-18 and 18-19 accounts. All of those amortisation costs will have FFP significance.

How Selling Clubs Account for their Income

The other important amortisation issue is the accounting procedure when a player is sold. On this topic I defer to the Swiss Ramble who uses the ex-Manchester City player Robinho as an example:

“[H]e was bought for £32.5 million in September 2008 on a four-year contract, so annual amortisation was £8.1 million. He was sold after two years, so cumulative amortisation was £16.2 million, leaving a value of £16.3m in the books. Sale price to Milan is reported as £18 million, so City will report a profit on sale of £1.7 million in the 2010/11 accounts. Therefore, City will show an annual profit improvement of £18.1 million after this deal: £8.3 million lower wages + £8.1 million lower amortisation + £1.7 million profit on sale.”

This demonstrates how clubs write-off the transfer value of a player over the life-time of their contract and also illuminates that because Robinho was worth £16.3m two years into his four year deal, Manchester City actually made an accounting profit on his transfer of £1.7m. Fans would see the sale of a player for £18m bought two years previously for £32.5m as bad business. The club in their accounts will class it as a £18.1m profit improvement.

Potential Suarez Profit for Liverpool

Liverpool originally purchased Suarez on a 5.5 year deal from Ajax in the January 2011 transfer window for a reported £22.8m. Suarez’s transfer fee was amortised to around £4.1m annually (£22.8m / 5.5 years).

Suarez then signed a (presumed) new 5 year contract in August 2012. The remaining book value of the transfer fee at the time of his new deal was £16.65m as around 1.5 years of the original transfer fee (£6.15m) had been amortised. Therefore £16.65m amortised over the new 5 year deal meant a new amortisation cost of £3.33m per season.

Then in December 2013, he signed a new 4.5 year deal. Almost 1.5 years of his re-amortised total figure of £16.65m had been amortised which reduced his total unamortised value by £4.99m (£3.33m x 1.5 years) to £11.66m His annual amortisation cost became £2.57m (£11.6m / 4.5 years) or £214,000 per month.

If you are still with me (!), depending on the exact figures that Barcelona are willing to pay for Suarez, an initial conservative £70m transfer fee minus the remaining £8.89m (£11.6 – £1.71m) which is 8 months further amortisation (£214,000 x 8 months December ’13 to July ’14 inclusive) gives Liverpool a total accounting profit on the Suarez sale of £61.11m. Therefore, with £10.4m in lower wages [1], £2.57m lower amortisation costs and £61.11m estimated profit on the sale, Liverpool may show an annual profit improvement of around £74m.

Such profit will no doubt put Liverpool in a stronger position to spend big this summer but as Liverpool’s year end is 31 May, transfer revenue from the Suarez deal will only appear in the clubs 2014-15 accounts thus not one of the periods (i.e. 11-12, 12-13 and 13-14) that UEFA will use to assess the club for FFP break-even purposes during the upcoming Champions League campaign.

[1] Assuming £200k a week equaling around £10.4m per year.