Manchester United lifts game: Boosted off-field sales exceed club's income from tickets and programmes

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The Independent Online
MANCHESTER United is scoring both on and off the field. As well as winning the League and getting to the knock-out second stage of the European Champions' Cup, it has boosted off-field sales, which now exceed ticket and programme sales.

Television income, sponsorship, royalties and merchandising helped to lift profits before transfer fees and tax for the year to 31 July by 6.6 per cent to pounds 8.2m. But after net spending of pounds 4m on player transfers, which included the pounds 3.8m acquisition of the midfield player Roy Keane, pre-tax profits fell 17 per cent to pounds 4.2m. Last year's figure was pounds 5.1m.

Some pounds 1m was taken from the transfer fee reserve to boost earnings per share and protect the dividend. Earnings per share were 24.3p before appropriation but 32.5p after. The final dividend is up 1.5p on last year at 13.5p a share, making a total dividend also up 1.5p at 19.5p.

Martin Edwards, chief executive, described the performance as highly credible in a year when gate receipts were down by 4 per cent, mainly due to rebuilding at the Old Trafford ground.

The Stretford End refurbishment took capacity down to just over 35,000 at one point last season, but it was up to 40,000 by the end of the season. Now that it is completed, capacity is back at 45,000.

The club has also spent pounds 2.8m refurbishing the South Stand. The two rebuilding projects have added more than 1,000 expensive box and club-class seats, a number of Club 500 seats, and an extra lounge for 160 Premier Club members.

Touche Ross, the accountants, valued the first team at 31 July at pounds 30m compared with pounds 24m in 1992.

Mr Edwards said success in the next round of the European Champions' Cup would get the team through to the Mini-League stage, which could bring in as much as pounds 4m. Progress to the semi-final and final should be worth even more.

Off the pitch, there are plans to follow up successful ventures like the launch of United magazine, the Champions video, and the wholesaling of club merchandise. The club will announce a joint venture with Manu Life, a Canadian life assurance company, tomorrow, and is about to launch a credit card. The shares fell 15p to 542p yesterday following a rise of 26p on Tuesday.

(Photograph omitted)