Stoke City Financial Fair Play battle reaches milestone

Bet365 stadium

Stoke City’s battle to stay within the EFL Financial Fair Play regulations has taken a new twist after its latest accounts show that its stadium was sold to bet365 in May last year in a deal worth just over £70m.

The deal was finalised just over a month before the EFL voted to change the rules and stop clubs selling stadiums at a profit effective from July 1st 2021 for the 2021/22 season.

Meanwhile, documents filed to Companies House reveal that the maximum number of shares will be increased from the current 10 million.

The Potters reported a £56m loss in the 12 months up to March 2021 following behind-closed-doors matches and a significant drop in Premier League parachute payments. This loss followed an £87.2m loss in the previous year.

Stoke did not furlough any staff or ask staff and players to take pay cuts during the pandemic. Season tickets are still at the same price set in 2008 and the club has offered free travel to away games since 2013. It has also relied on interest-free loans from the Coates family.

Clubs in the EFL face once faced fines if they did not meet the league’s Financial Fair Play rules, but now they will face points deductions. This limits losses to £13m per season over a three-year period. This is Stoke’s first three-year period completely outside the top flight, where clubs are allowed losses up to £35m per season.

A statement in the bet365 accounts say: “In the 2020/21 football season, Stoke City Football Club once again competed in the EFL’s Championship. Due to restrictions on mass gatherings during the period of Covid-19 pandemic, all home games for the club were played behind closed doors with fans only able to watch the club’s matches on live feeds via the club’s website.

“The club has been delighted to welcome fans back to the bet365 Stadium since July 2021 and looks forward to a consequent return to better trading conditions.”

The EFL has recently ruled that it will allow ‘Covid add-backs’ to accounts for 2021/22 with a value up to £2.5m.

Clubs can also claim up to £5m for seasons 2019/20 and 2020/21. There are other losses that do not count towards FFP, like investment in infrastructure or the academy.