Chairman and joint owner of Tranmere Rovers FC, Mark Palios, reveals widening pre-tax losses and says the club is seeking new investors to help support its growth and fund a new stadium. Tony McDonough reports
Tranmere Rovers FC chairman and joint owner Mark Palios says the club will need fresh investment if it is to grow its revenue-earning potential and build a new stadium.
In the last few days the Wirral-based League Two club has posted its annual accounts on Companies House for the 12 months to June 30, 2023. They cover the 2022/23 football season and show widening financial losses.
Writing in the report, Mark said the directors had hoped to emerge from the pandemic into a “business as usual” environment. But the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent surge in inflation had created a more difficult scenario.
Tranmere’s revenues for the reporting period were £5.45m, just a fraction down on the £5.48m reported a year earlier. However, pre-tax losses widened significantly from £290,000 in the previous year to £1.37m.
Income from football-related activities, including gate receipts, totalled £3.9m while commercial revenue was more than £1.5m, up from £1.37m the year before. Value of net assets fell by £2m to £17.2m.
Going into 2023, Tranmere’s senior team was ready for a strong promotion push and, at the very least, expected to get into the play-offs. It rebuffed lucrative offers for players from other clubs in the January transfer window.
However, spring saw a dip in form and the team eventually finished a disappointing 12th. In March the club terminated the contract of first team manager Micky Mellon. Ian Dawes was appointed as his replacement. Nigel Adkins replaced Dawes in September 2023.
This late season form impacted on gate receipts in the final weeks of the season as attendances at Prenton Park fell. Subsequently, Tranmere sold fewer season tickets for the 2023/24 season – 3,430 against 3,561 for the previous season.
One bright spot was a second round Carabao Cup tie in August 2022 against Newcastle United. Rovers lost 2-1 to the Magpies but received a financial boost from a sell-out crowd and TV revenues.
Despite the pre-tax losses, Mark says the club had “performed creditably” from a cash perspective and demonstrated improved resilience. In July 2023 the Fair Game Index rated Tranmere was one of the top 10 best run clubs in England.
Mark owns the club along with his wife Nicola. They acquired Rovers from Wirral tycoon, Peter Johnson, who had been its owner since 1987. Mr Johnson died, aged 84, in early January.
While the club may be relatively stable, Mark says he and the directors are ambitious and want to see it ascend to the higher tiers of English football and grow its revenue-generating capacity.
“The principal aim of the directors remains to ensure that the club is financially self sustainable and able to achieve on field success without being reliant on annual external investment,” he explained.
“The resilience of the club is strong, as can be seen by the financial results achieved, despite the headwinds of the inflationary environment in which we are currently forced to operate.
“And we are broadly at a point where the club can break even while maintaining a competitive playing budget
“However, to be competitive in higher leagues we feel there is still more work to be done and to that end the club has been progressing key infrastructure projects.”
These projects, he added, would “strengthen the balance sheet and increase the capacity of the club to generate income which is not impacted by on-field performance to the same extent as the traditional model for a football club.
“These projects include the expansion of the campus, and the potential for a new stadium as an integral part of the regeneration of the Wirral.
“The club does not have the capital to complete these projects without external investment and, to that end, the directors are currently seeking investors who have the means and the appetite to take some or all of these projects forward.”
In June 2021 Wirral Council’s Economy, Regeneration and Housing Committee considered plans for a £100m ‘Sports City’ complex at Bidston Dock that would become Tranmere Rovers’ new home. In 2022 Mark said this would only happen in consolation with the club’s supporters.
This development would comprise a 15,000-capacity stadium, digital golf driving range and retail outlets. It would also include a hotel and conference facilities. Prenton Park would be demolished to make way for housing.
Mark concluded: “There remain plenty of opportunities for the club to realise its potential and to fund success on the pitch while continuing to be an anchor institution in its local community.”
The Companies House report also outlined the extensive work the club does in the local Wirral community.
This is overseen by Tranmere Rovers in the Community, the club’s charitable foundation, along with the Tranmere Rovers Trust, Wirral Council and main shirt sponsor Essar Oil UK.
It focuses on three areas – health and wellbeing, citizenship and enhancement – and includes distributing food hampers and working with people with dementia, people with addictions and refugees.
There is also an annual Christmas Day lunch and gifts for recent care leavers as well as a number of sporting and wellbeing activities for young people and adults.
Also referenced in the report was the Tranmere Rovers Women and Girls teams which saw success in 2022/23 including a County Cup Final win against Stockport.