AS part of Argyle’s Vision & Values, the club enshrines the principles of transparency and being fan focused.
With this in mind, Pilgrims’ director Paul Berne addressed the club’s finances at the first of this season’s Fans’ Forums, also attended by chairman Simon Hallett and chief executive Andrew Parkinson.
Since then, of course, Simon’s decision to convert a £4m-plus loan to the club into an increased shareholding, has changed the picture for the better.
Here, and with the help of these graphics, Paul outlines how the club has been operating financially, and how it intends to go forward.
Q: Why are you sharing this information, and are you comfortable sharing financial information?
P: The first thing to say is that we are delighted to be able to share this information. It is my desire to ensure that everyone understands the finances at our football club – and Simon and the rest of the Board are equally keen to see such financial transparency.
We are completely comfortable with sharing this. I know it is not usual, but we want people to understand the ins and outs of the finances – and I hope the data that has been shared helps people to understand things a bit better.
Q: What is this information that you are sharing?
P: This information is a summary of what has happened in the finances of the club over the last three seasons. The published accounts of the club have been based on a calendar year – but I think it makes much more sense to show things in terms of football season, so I have re-analysed to show this information.
This is simply an analysis of the last three seasons, and I am trying to make things understandable for everyone. I am trying to show where the money comes from and where it goes.
There is no need for financial jargon, or complicated graphs and charts, to show people the sources of revenue, and the costs it takes to run our football club.
I want to show people the truth about what happens.
Q: What happens when costs are greater than income?
P: Unfortunately, for the most part, costs have been greater than income in the last few years. The truth is that if this happens, the club must find the money from another source.
Argyle have been very fortunate in recent years, in that shareholders have been prepared to put some of their own money into the club. In the main, this has meant Simon (although other shareholders have put money into the club, too).
The money has been put in either as new shares or as low-cost loans (although these loans have recently been converted). This money has been done simply to fund the club – it is not done as a kind of “investment”, or to take money out the club – it is simply money given to the club.
It is also worth pointing out that – with the exception of the Chief Executive, who runs things full time, day-to-day – the non-executive directors of Plymouth Argyle (including myself) are not paid for doing so. We do it to help out. In my case, for example, I am a fan who happens to be able to help – and I want to help the club.
Q: What happened to the Liverpool money?
P: This is an often-asked question! I can understand this question…but it doesn’t really have an answer. The reality is that money comes into a football club (from various means), and money goes out.
In the 2016-17 season, we were lucky enough to have more money coming in than we expected, largely because of the Liverpool game. However, that money does not get “ring-fenced” in any way – it simply goes towards the running of the club.
In the information I am sharing, you can see we get money coming in for FA Cup tickets, and that is a windfall. But, on the other hand, season-ticket sales were lower than in the next couple of years. So, it helped to fund the overall position.
The club made a surplus in that season, but the shortfalls from previous seasons (and subsequent seasons) needed to be paid for – or else we would need to rely upon the generosity of shareholders.
So, the answer is…the Liverpool money went to running the club.
And that is how it should be. Every bit of money that comes into the club should help run the club. And if the club is run well and efficiently, then that means that as much as possible can go into the team – which means the success of the club.
Q: What is the future outlook for the finances of the club?
P: The biggest challenge for any football club in the EFL these days is to control finances properly.
The most important thing for me is that I can continue to come to Home Park to watch football with my wife and kids for many years to come. And that means that the football club has got to be able to be financially stable – and self-sufficient.
So, as grateful as I am to Simon Hallett (and other recent shareholders) for putting money into the club, the reality is that I do not want Plymouth Argyle to rely on anyone to support it.
So, the aim for us as a club is to be financially self-sufficient.
The great thing is that we are well on the way to that.
The financial position of the club is now more stable than at any time in recent history.
We are all but debt-free.
We have a well-run club and stadium.
We have a great fanbase.
We are in a great city, with bags of potential.
In addition, Simon has enabled the building of the new grandstand – which brings with it more opportunities.
The club will benefit from this fantastic new facility from the day it opens. As this new grandstand generates money for the club, the club will be more able to stand upon its own two feet financially…and have the ability to invest in the team and the club.
I am really, really optimistic about the future for the club.
Remember, I am a fan, and I want to come along every other Saturday and watch us play exciting football, score a few goals and win.
But I also want to feel that the club has a strong future – and that is why I am happy to help to try and achieve that.