Arsenal have borrowed £120 million from the Bank of England to help the club’s cashflow through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The loan is repayable by the end of May and is principally designed to help offset the ongoing absence of matchday revenue for the season.
Significantly, the money cannot be used for transfers as it comes from the Bank of England’s COVID Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF), which is the same scheme through which Tottenham and the Football Association received financial support last year.
Few clubs or organisations are eligible for the CCFF because of strict qualification criteria which include a strong investment grade rating and a determination that a company makes a “material contribution to the British economy.”
It is unclear what interest Arsenal will have to pay on the loan but Spurs borrowed their £175m sum at a rate of 0.5%.
“As we continue to work through the implications of the global pandemic on our finances, we can confirm today that the club has met the criteria set by the Bank of England for the COVID Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF),” an Arsenal statement said.
“As a result, we are taking a short-term £120m loan through this facility to partially assist in managing the impacts of the revenue losses attributable to the pandemic. This is a similar approach to that taken by a wide variety of major organisations across many industries including sport and is repayable in May 2021.”
The move highlights the difficulties clubs are facing in coping with a huge drop in revenue resulting from the pandemic, particularly at Arsenal where matchday income accounted for a quarter of their revenue in 2018-19.
Arsenal have already made 55 non-playing staff redundant in addition to drastically reducing the size of their scouting network and parting company with several senior staff members including former head of football Raul Sanllehi and contract negotiator Huss Fahmy.
We can confirm that the club has met the criteria set by the Bank of England for the Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF)
— Arsenal (@Arsenal) January 7, 2021
The absence of a preseason tour prior to the 2020-21 season represents just one blow to commercial revenue streams and it was estimated by the Arsenal Supporters’ Trust early on in the pandemic that a full year without supporters could mean the club loses as much as £144m.
The club moved last year to refinance the debt on Emirates Stadium — estimated at the time to be around £160m — with owner Kroenke Sports Enterprises redeeming outstanding bonds and moving the remaining sum to another lender.
“The CCFF is in addition to the loan provided by our owners Kroenke, Sports & Entertainment that enabled us to refinance the debt on Emirates Stadium in August last year,” Arsenal added.
It remains to be seen whether this short-term move will enable the club to rid themselves of other financial burdens, not least a bloated wage bill.
Arsenal spent £45m on Thomas Partey in the summer but that money was only released after a specific request to Stan Kroenke from senior figures at the club including technical director Edu and manager Mikel Arteta.
The club are hopeful of doing business in January but the need for a short-term loan underlines the constraints they are working in.