Leeds United's 2020-21 profit in Covid-19-hit season puts them in better-than-expected shape for summer strengthening work

Leeds United will head into an important transfer window buoyed by financial results described by expert Kieran Maguire as “phenomenal by a non-‘Big Six’ club”.

They are the 16th Premier League club to announce last season’s figures and only the second, after Sheffield United, to turn an operating profit. It is their first since 2017.

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Elland Road was only open to supporters for the final game of 2020-21, and then only 8,000. Even so, the Whites capitalised on their return to the top flight after 16 years away to make an operating profit of £5.5m.

PROFIT: Despite all the problems of Covid-19, Leeds made money on their return to the Premier League

They also exceeded on-field expectations, finishing ninth. Their £135m prize money more than made up for £35m in bonuses for avoiding relegation.

This summer Leeds need to recruit players better suited to new coach Jesse Marsch’s more direct style and if this season’s lessons are to be learnt, expand the 18-man senior squad predecessor Marcelo Bielsa insisted on. Marsch met the recruitment team on Wednesday.

They had the ninth highest commercial revenue of the 16 clubs – Newcastle United, Crystal Palace, Burnley and West Bromwich Albion are yet to report – with merchandise sales up almost a third to £20.4m.

Lecturer Maguire, regarded by many as the country’s leading expert on football finance, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “if Leeds had a good season and got into Europe the numbers would rocket further.”The wage bill rose £30m to £108m as the Whites committed to £99m of transfers including Rodrigo, Diego Llorente, Robin Koch and Raphinha. The cash spend was only £63m with £85m due in instalments on outstanding deals. Less than £2m came in for sales, and they are owed a further £2.6m.

Upgrades to Elland Road and the Thorp Arch training ground to meet Premier League requirements and, perhaps more challengingly, Bielsa's exacting demands, cost £5m.

Administrative expenses were £151m.

Comparisons with the previous season are not exact because that was a 13-month accounting period, as opposed to 11 months this, due largely to the pandemic but the patterns are clear.

With £21m of loan interest waived, the profit before tax was £25.9m. Turnover increased from £54m to £171m, and gross profit leapt from £40m to £156m.

Leeds borrowed £63m, and spent £14m repaying loans, and a share issue generated £23m courtesy of investors the San Francisco 49ers.

Most of the jump in income came from a 77 per cent rise in broadcast income, showing the importance of remaining in global domestic football’s most lucrative league. A £7m broadcast rebate from the Premier League for the disruption caused by the pandemic - which delayed the end of the 2019-20 season by two months - was accounted for in the previous results.

Kinnear said the club’s “growing international appeal” reflected on social media “should prove a structural competitive advantage that can be leveraged to secure Premier League status over the long term.”