Arsenal have reiterated their commitment to their new stadium project after reporting a reduction in first-half year losses following their double-winning season.
The club yesterday announced the latest six-month interim results for Arsenal Holdings plc, which showed an increase in group turnover of 28.5 per cent to £43.6m and a slight rise in group operating profits to £1m. However, while the loss after taxation was reduced to £7.5m from £12.6m, net borrowing was significantly up at £28.3m amid an overall deficit on transfer deals and further significant investment in the proposed new stadium.
"Our new stadium project continues to play a significant role in our current finances," the chairman, Peter Hill-Wood, said in a statement. "Whilst we have experienced a number of delays in the arrangements for the new stadium we are actively progressing all aspects of the project and continue to be fully committed to Ashburton Grove with the objective of delivering a stadium at the earliest possible date," he added.
Revenues were boosted by Arsenal winning the league, which gave them a bigger proportion of Champions' League money, while their status as champions attracted more television coverage in the first three months of the season.
The club said they had bank borrowings of £28.3m at 30 November, due to costs related to player transfers and the new stadium. Six months earlier Arsenal had been £14.7m in the black.
Arsenal must agreenew contracts with key players such as Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Dennis Bergkamp. However, in revealing that the first-team squad and management wage bill had increased by £2.6m over the six-month period to November 2002, Hill-Wood made it clear there are few major pay rises on offer.
"In our 2002 annual report, I referred to the control and potential future reduction of our player wage bill and this remains an objective," he stated. "However, [it is] one we can only progress, in the light of market conditions, as new players arrive or existing contracts come up for renewal."
Arsenal have consistently insisted the budget for the £400m Ashburton Grove project is separate to the transfer funds available to the club's manager, Arsène Wenger. However, the club have already announced a delay in their planned opening date for the new ground.
Hill-Wood was nevertheless still positive about the club's future prospects as he commented on the latest financial figures. "I am pleased to be reporting increased turnover and operating profits, before exceptional items and player trading, and a reduced overall loss after taxation for the period," he said.
HIGHBURY HALF-YEAR FIGURES GAINS AND LOSSES
* Deficit on "player trading" £9.4m, compared to £6.9m a year before.
* Two "significant" developments concluded, relating to residential apartments, commercial units and social housing, that should bring in at least £75m over next four years.
* Gate and other matchday revenues rose to £12.3m from £9m.
* Income from broadcasting rose by 22 per cent to £19.3m.
* Launch of home and away strips brought retail turnover for the first half-year up 77 per cent to £4.93m.
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