United scores well in first half

BY JOHN SHEPHERD

Football is definitely a game of two halves. There is the half that does not make money, and there is the half that does. Manchester United falls into the second category.

Interim results from the winners of the Premier League for the past two seasons, currently in second position behind Blackburn Rovers, showed that almost £900,000 rolls into the company from each home game, with an average gate of 43,000.

Add £3m from playing in the European Champions League and proceeds from merchandising, and the total for six months to 31 January was a profit before tax and transfer fees of £11.2m against £6.8m in the corresponding period.

A repeat performance in the second half is not on the cards, however. The revenue pattern is front-end loaded with the first half reaping in advance sales from sponsorship, a loyal army of season ticket holders and the 3,000-plus throng of VIPs, who each put up an average £1,338 a year to watch the game from executive boxes.

Additionally, the club played 18 home matches in the first half and will play only 10 in the second. Overall, the first half absorbs 50 per cent of the costs but produces almost two-thirds of the income.

United's pure pre-tax profits were dented by the club's dabbling on the transfer market - most notably the record £6.25m signing from Newcastle United of Andy Cole. Net transfer costs were £3.89m, against a £775,000 credit, and left the pre-tax result down at £7.33m compared with £7.6m.

However, Martin Edwards, chief executive, said there was no need to dip into the transfer reserve fund, which stands at £4m net of tax.

City followers, as in London and not Manchester, thought the company had "done well" in the first half and marked the share price up 4p to 129p. Shareholders will pocket an interim dividend of 1.4p, up from 1.3p.

Cantona denial, page 40

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