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REVEALED: The true cost of Wolves' Premier League dream

By Simon Penfold | Wolves | Published:

Wolves' accounts have revealed how the club is bidding to allay Financial Fair Play fears

Left, club record signing Ruben Neves cost Wolves £15 million, and right, big signing Helder Costa set the club back £13 million, and Fosun’s man at Wolves, Jeff Shi, with Robert Plant

Wolves' Premier League ambitions are laid bare in new accounts that show the club has committed £67million on signing players since it was bought by Chinese owners Fosun in 2016.

The spending spree over the last two seasons has seen Wolves soar to the top of the Championship and hold its leadership position for the last five months.

The latest set of accounts from Wolverhampton Wanderers, filed at Companies House this week, show the club spent £32.5m on new players in the financial year to the end of May 2017, including £13m for Helder Costa and £7m, for Ivan Cavaleiro.

But, buried at the back of the 31-page document, the papers reveal that since the end 2016/17 the club has committed another £34.7m on new players. That figure is made up of around £20m on signing Ruben Neves, Roderick Miranda, Barry Douglas and Rafa Mir this season – plus a commitment of between £10m and £15m to buy loan star Diogo Jota this summer.

What the accounts reveal about Financial Fair Play fears

The accounts also show that net debt at the club has soared, from just £4.3m in 2016 to £23.8m by the end of May last year.

That is largely due to loans from parent group Fosun as it bankrolls Wolves' promotion ambitions. £6m is due to be repaid to Fosun this year and £21m by the end of May next year.

Wolves big spending and the £23.2m loss the club made in 2016-17 has raised fears over breaching football's Financial Fair Play regulations.

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These cap Championship club losses at £39m over three season, but breaching the rules could result in the loss of points, transfer embargoes or fines.

In their strategic report in the accounts, the directors admit that the loss was due to the club's investment in the playing squad, "and therefore there is a risk in repsent of complyuing with the Profit and Sustainability regulations, where failure to meet the required thresholds can result in both financial and operational sanctions to the group".

As a result they are monitoring the situation "month on month", comparing their forecasts for financial performance against the regulations, "to ensure the directors can respond to any potential forecasted breaches to mitigage the risk of such sanctions".

How promotion will mitigate loss of 'parachute' payments

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The accountants also reveal that the club has taken a hit since the drop in the value of the pound following the Brexit referendum, as its transfer fees are valued in euros.

Among the other risks the club is facing is the loss of its Premier League 'parachute' payments.

Its final payment last year was £6.9m, down from £13m the year before – heightening the importance of winning promotion to the Premier League at the end of this season.

The impact on the club's income was immediate, falling from £27.2m in 2016 to £23.8m last year, despite a £1m boost to its gate receipts which rose to £6.5m. The rest of the club's income came from sponsorship and advertising, broadcasting rights and commercial activities such as kit sales.

At the same time the cost of running the club has risen substantially. At the end of May last year the club employed 282 people, and the number of playing staff had risen from 69 to 74.

But the cost of wages had soared to £24.9m, up from £15.9m in 2016, as the club pumped more money into signing top quality players. It will also have included the cost of changing managers four times. Over a turbulent 2016-17 financial year Wolves sacked Kenny Jackett in July 2016 – shortly after new owners Fosun took over – hired and fired Walter Zenga, replacing him with Paul Lambert until May 2017 at which point current manager Nuno Espirito Santo was brought in. And, of course, there was the cost of their various back room teams.

Simon Penfold

By Simon Penfold
Business Editor - @SPenfold_star

Business Editor based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton, looking for stories big & small.

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