AFC BOURNEMOUTH has been declared the fastest-growing business in the South West.

The football club is a new entry in the Sunday Times Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 of companies with the most rapid growth in sales.

The distinction comes barely a decade after the club was plunged into administration and almost went out of business, dropping down to League Two and barely avoiding the Football League trapdoor.

Sales for the Cherries have risen over the past three years by an average of 138 per cent a year, reaching £136.5million annually.

The period surveyed by the Fast Track 100 covers AFC Bournemouth’s debut in the top flight of English football. The team finished ninth in the Premier League at the end of their second season and are currently eighth.

Earlier this year, the club reported profit after tax of £14m for the year ending June 30 2017, compared with £3.4m the previous year.

Turnover rose from £87.9m to £136.5m, which the club said was almost entirely due to the boost from a three-year broadcasting and sponsorship deal brokered by the Premier League.

AFC Bournemouth chief executive Neill Blake said then: “The club is in a more secure position than it has ever been, with significant recent progress made regarding infrastructure and facilities to ensure that it continues to build on its success.”

With the smallest stadium capacity in the Premier League at just 11,360, AFC Bournemouth reported a match income of just £5m – a tiny fraction of the money brought in on matchdays by the league’s giants.

AFC Bournemouth employed 575 staff as of June 2017, the Fast Track 100 report says.

The club is also counted as the oldest business in the Fast Track 100, having been founded in 1890 – although a new company was formed to take the club forward after the business fell into administration in 2008.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, which has supported Fast Track 100 for 22 years, said: “Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of UK business and have always been the beating heart of positive change. In a climate of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to recognise those entrepreneurs, like those of this year’s Fast Track 100, who are making the world a better place for everybody.”

The full table is published in the Sunday Times in print and and online this weekend, and at