16th June 2017
Match Day Income
“The Biggest Clubs are ultimately those with the busiest turnstiles.”
I ended yesterday’s Post (“Reasons to be Cheerful #3”) with a carefully chosen word; ‘busiest’. Not Biggest Stadiums. Busiest.
To understand Daniel Levy’s plan for world domination, you have to try and think like him. Or at least, understand how our new 61,500-capacity ground will generate considerably more income than any other English sports stadium.
Try googling “stadiums in the world” and you’ll get numerous lists of the largest, from Rungrado in North Korea at 114,000 and the Nou Camp in Barcelona at 99,000, to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena at 92,000 and Wembley at 90,000.
But guess which one generates the highest annual revenues?
Well, I’ll come to the answer to that question in a moment.
But don’t worry. It’s not the Emirates!
Let’s start with the impact of our increased capacity. We all know that Spurs will be moving from 34,000-capacity White Hart Lane (WHL) into a 61,500-seat stadium (‘WHL2’). So, the simple assumption is that our matchday income should rise pro-rata by that 81% increase in capacity (perhaps a bit more if prices are put up).
If safe standing is approved, our capacity will likely rise to about 67,000 (but let’s ignore that possibility for projection purposes).
Based on £41 million of Match Day Income (in 2016) – including PL, domestic Cup and Europa matches and corporate hospitality – if we apply that 81% uplift to reflect the increased capacity of the new stadium, it would earn the club an extra £33 million, adding up to a total of £74 million of Match Day income in 2018-2019.
Around half of that £74 million would be ‘predictable’ (from 19 PL home games against largely known opposition) and the balance would be somewhat ‘variable’ according to cup runs (home or away, and how far we get), our success in Europe (CL v EL) and other factors.
But to understand why £74 million considerably undershoots what Spurs’ actual Match Day Revenues are going to be, it’s time to discuss which modest 20,000-seater stadium generates the highest sporting revenues in the world.
Because the answer gives us a clue as to what’s inside Daniel’s head.
I = C x F x P + A
Don’t stop reading! That’s the only equation I’ll produce here. I promise.
What the above formula means is: total ‘Income’ equals ‘Capacity’ multiplied by ‘Frequency’ multiplied by ‘Price per ticket’ plus Ancillary spending.
Most people focus on the Size of a stadium and assume the biggest stadiums will have the highest incomes. And that’s true … up to a point.
But there’s a 20,000-seat stadium – (ie. the same capacity as, say, Swansea’s Liberty or Watford’s Vicarage Road) – called the Staples Center in Los Angeles (pictured above). It is only a third the size of the Emirates yet it earns three times as much annual income. It probably has the highest sporting ‘Match Day Revenues’ of any stadium in the world.
Because it’s the Busiest.
Let’s talk about How.
‘How’ is a combination of factors that, when combined, “squeeze the most mileage out of each seat” (in the words of Forbes Magazine).
There are four main strands to the Venue’s strategy:
- Firstly, Staples Center is part of a busy complex, with the Microsoft Square open-air plaza acting as a gathering point (and as a broadcast venue with giant screens).
- Secondly, Staples Center hosts 140+ matches a year (without even including music concerts, wrestling, etc.). – The stadium is home to 4 teams – the L.A. Lakers and Clippers (both NBA basketball), the Sparks (Womens NBA) and the Kings (Ice Hockey). Many football stadiums are bigger but they are only used an average of once a fortnight over a year. NFL stadiums only host around 8-10 home games a year (even shared stadiums like the San Siro in Milan and MetLife in New Jersey are only used twice as much and revenues are shared). Remember, total ‘Income’ = ‘Capacity’ multiplied by ‘Frequency’.
- Thirdly, Staples Center follows a ‘ticket price differentiation’ model whereby it has cheaper seats for the ‘ordinary fan’ but a large number of premium seats (in its lower bowl closer to the action) plus 160 luxury boxes. The net result is tickets from $6 to $600+ per individual game. Overall, the average ticket price per seat across all seats, and all games, per season is substantially over US$100. Remember, total ‘Income’ also depends on the average ‘Price per ticket’ (or yield per seat in money-speak).
- Fourthly, catering revenues are not an ‘afterthought’ from selling a pie and a mug of Bovril to those who manage to beat the half-time queue. Instead, the actual ‘Event’ at Staples starts well before the game and continues during breaks and afterwards. There’s ‘catering price differentiation’ too with everything from cheap beer and fast food, to better wine and premium food. And on top of normal catering revenues, luxury hospitality is a major source of income. Remember, total ‘Income’ includes Ancillary spending, not just ticket prices.
- In round numbers, 20,000 seats x 140 matches x $120 = US$ 336 million (say £260 million equivalent). But assume each person also spends an average of $15 per game on beer and a burger, that’s another US$ 42 million = US$ 378 million total.
- Plus, if any of the 4 ‘home’ teams reach the Play-Offs, there are more games, more spending. And the Staples Center earns considerably more revenue from ‘non-sports’ events such as concerts and wrestling NOT included in the US$378 million.
But how is all this relevant to Spurs?
White Hart Lane was a wonderful old-style stadium. She was a traditional English Premier League ground; in our case, ‘sold-out’ every game, compact and atmospheric. She was wedged into the neighborhood by tight streets and local watering holes. She hosted about 25 football matches a year. Ordinary tickets had become expensive. Catering and toilet facilities were very much an afterthought. We loved her. But she was holding us back.
As a result, many years and even more millions were spent planning her upgrade. She might simply have become just a larger (61,500) version of her earlier self, an ‘Emirates-with-attitude’, or a smaller Old Trafford with pricier seats.
But what would have been the point in that? When you can leapfrog the others.
- Spurs new Stadium will also be the center of a busy complex with an open-air plaza acting as a gathering point and broadcast venue. The ‘Microsoft Square’ outside Staples Center in Los Angeles is 40,000 sq. ft., while Spurs’ Square will be at 50,000 sq. ft. Giant screens will effectively increase ‘capacity’ for sold-out Spurs matches and those who can’t afford seats inside.
- Although WHL2 will obviously never be required to host 140 matches a year, the new stadium has been specifically designed for NFL matches, boxing events, pop concerts, etc. The wider use will provide considerable extra revenue compared with any traditional Premier League ground. Eventually a London NFL franchise could be based at the stadium. The ‘twin pitch’ option gives total flexibility.
- It is quite clear from the information released to date that Spurs will be following a similar ‘ticket price differentiation’ model to Staples Center. Our 7,000 or so premium-seat season tickets (priced at £3,500+ p.a.) are not aimed at corporate hospitality but at genuine fans who are prepared to pay more for a “premium yet authentic experience” in “optimum viewing areas”. Hopefully, these will be balanced by season ticket prices affordable to the ordinary fan in the South and North stands. But overall the average ticket price per seat in the new stadium will be a fair bit higher than the £41 (inc. VAT) it was at White Hart Lane. My income ‘guesstimates’ based on the new stadium plan assume a 20% average increase to £48 (but with ‘ordinary’ season ticket prices basically remaining unchanged).
- The tabloids have taken great delight in mocking Spurs planned bakery, microbrewery and 280-foot-long bar. But catering is not going to be an afterthought at the new stadium. It’s integral to the Match Day experience. There might well be a cultural difference to the way that Americans enjoy a sports event compared with us, but I have little doubt that the ‘average spend’ per fan in the new stadium (and outside) will rise substantially, generating a new source of revenues. Assuming that each ‘fan’ spends an average of £8 per match on drink and food in / around the stadium compared with before, that’s an extra £11 million income per annum.
- Corporate Hospitality is a difficult accounting number to ‘pin down’. This is because football clubs (and others) tend to split corporate sponsorship between ‘commercial’ and ‘matchday hospitality’ according to various factors and tax rules. In 2016, Spurs declared £49 million of sponsorship and corporate hospitality revenue combined. My assumption below is simply that Corporate Hospitality itself will double to £25m in the new stadium (and I’ve allocated 1,500 of seating capacity for executive boxes and corporate seats, on top of the 60,000 below).
Year 2019 2016
Figures (proj) (actual)
Stadium New WHL
Capacity 60,000 34,000
Average Per Seat (inc. VAT) £48 £41
Average Per Seat (ex.VAT) £40 £34
Premier League (19 x capacity x price) £46m £22m
Domestic Cup Matches £8m £3m
European Matches £10m £3.2m
Corporate Hospitality / Other £25m £12.4m
Additional Catering Revenues £11m –
Total Match Receipts £100m £41m
All of this above ignores future ‘non-football Match Day Income’. Assuming just 5 Events a year (2 NFL + 3 Boxing / Music), with an average attendance of 50,000 people at the same average price as above (£48 inc VAT), then the Club would earn an extra £10 million of annual ‘match day’ Revenues (before costs). But I suspect this figure is an undershoot and will be exceeded.
My research had led me to a conclusion. The reason no Naming Rights deal has been agreed for the new stadium yet is that Daniel Levy is waiting for the ‘reality’ I’ve summarized here to be fully understood in the commercial market.
The joint Anglo-American potential of our PL-NFL link for a single international brand (the stadium at least, possibly even the franchise), offers unique global recognition.
I will attribute £25 million to ‘Commercial Income’ (not Match Day Income) from a 10 year £250 million Naming Rights contract (or perhaps a 15 year £375 million contract) in my next post. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see an eventual number higher than that.
The target I stated for Stage 1 is to ‘double’ our Match Day income by 2020 (ie. at the latest our second full Season in the new stadium).
The assumptions and calculations I’ve made are all reasonable (arguably even pessimistic). The capacity is known. The increased capacity will allow for more higher priced seats. Catering revenues and hospitality will grow. The NFL contract is signed.
£100 million of Match Day Revenues will be achieved by 2020 (compared with £41 million today).
Meanwhile, Commercial Income has been running at about £60 million (in 2016).
But it too will rise to £100 million p.a. by 2020.
As we’ll see in my next post (18): ‘In the Lions’ Den’