Analysis: Debt is football’s dirty word – should it be?

22 February 2021

Photo: PA Images FC Barcelonas astronomical liabilities, and the mismanagement that has driven them so high, set the club apart from all others in football, but the reaction to their debt level has been unerringly similar to responses seen elsewhere. Frequently, when a club sinks into debt, observers react with shock and dismay. Almost inherently, debt at a football club is seen as a bad thing. Should it be?

FC Barcelona’s financial woes have again raised the spectre of debt in football. The debt of Tottenham Hotspur is bigger – but differs significantly in nature.

Lending by clubs is not necessarily an evil: many do so to fund important ventures.

Looking at Burnley, their debt could be a troubling burden if they should face relegation. On the contrary, the greater debt at Manchester United is likely to remain more than manageable.

Bigger clubs can generally carry big debts without much worry; smaller clubs are at a greater risk of failure if on-field performance drops.

Chris Weatherspoon

When Covid-19 first announced its arrival in football, a moment that feels an age ago but is, inexplicably, yet to celebrate its first anniversary, financial worries were not directed at the top of the game.

Facing months of empty stadia and no guarantee the 2019/20 season would even come to a resolution, plenty feared clubs lower down their respective footballing pyramids, already living hand-to-mouth in many cases, were in danger of stumbling off a financial cliff.

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