Wales

Debt-free life in Premier League for Swansea and Cardiff

Swansea and Cardiff celebrate
Image caption Swansea won the Capital One Cup last season and Cardiff won the Championship title

For many Welsh football fans, I'm sure the prospect of two clubs in the Premier League is almost unbelievable.

But another extraordinary prospect is to have two Welsh clubs in the Premier League which are debt free.

Swansea City are already there and have done it by being prudent with their spending, enforcing a wage cap and not having major costs associated with building a new stadium.

Cardiff City on the other hand are not there yet. Much depends on what decision is made next by the man who controls the club, the Malaysian fast-food franchise and property tycoon, Vincent Tan.

There have been some major developments recently.

The biggest is that an old loan of £24m was settled for an undisclosed sum with the Swiss-based firm Langston, which is linked to the former chairman Sam Hammam.

Last month, Mr Tan repeated a commitment that if that legacy debt was settled, he would convert his loans with the club into shares.

It is unclear exactly how much he is owed by the club but he said at a news conference that he will have invested around £120m to get the club into the Premier League debt-free.

Keith Morgan, a football finance expert and member of Cardiff City Supporters' Trust, said it could be a huge boost.

"Very few clubs, even operating at the highest level, can claim to be debt free," he said.

"Even the biggest clubs carry a huge debt burden, they're just fortunate to have an income stream large enough to carry that burden.

"Not to have to plough income into historical debt is a tremendous boost for any club. It makes it very attractive for other investors to come in and put their money on board."

TV revenues

One of the big questions is whether Cardiff City can stem the losses racked up in the Championship and make money like Swansea who have been profitable in the Premier League in their first two seasons.

It has taken Cardiff decades to get into the top flight but their timing is impeccable because the television revenues are going to rocket thanks to the arrival of BT who pushed up the price when they bid against Sky to show live matches.

Cardiff's revenues are likely to quadruple to around £80m. But of course their costs are going to soar as well, in particular the wage bill which stood at £18m during the 2011/12 season.

In comparison, a recent study by football finance experts at the accountants' Deloittes put Swansea City's wage bill at £35m, the lowest in the Premier League.

Swansea have prided themselves on keeping a lid on costs. Their wage bill is worth around 65% of their overall revenue, less than the average.

Vice chairman Leigh Dineen said: "A football club business is different to any other business - you should always have two scenarios going forward.

"In the case of us, that's being in the Premier League the following year or relegation.

"With relegation comes a lot less revenue so therefore we have to budget and plan so that if we go down, our costs would mirror our revenue.

"If you do that, then you have a chance - if you ever drop down - of being sustainable and with a chance to progress.

"If you don't do it, you end up with a wage bill bigger than your revenues and that's where the likes of Portsmouth have got themselves into trouble over the years."

Both clubs will have huge revenues this season, largely down to the television money.

Their individual incomes will be higher than the Welsh Rugby Union but there are enormous costs as well associated with buying and paying players in the world's richest football league.

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