Top football clubs reduce transfer spending by £250m

Premier League clubs spent £180m in the January 2019 transfer window, marking the first fall in spending for seven years and well short of the previous year’s record of £430m, but total spend for the season is the second-highest, according to analysis by Deloitte

The firm’s sports business group calculates that total gross spending by Premier League clubs in the 2018/19 season reached an estimated £1.4bn, second only to a record spend of £1.9bn in 2017/18.

However, it is the first season since 2011/12 that has seen a year-on-year decrease in transfer expenditure from Premier League clubs, with total spending in January 2019 down by £250m compared to January 2018.

Deloitte says the reduction in January activity is attributable to a combination of factors including reduced activity from the ‘big six’ clubs; a perceived lack of value in the transfer market; the strongest ever financial position of Premier League clubs, reducing the need to sell their best talent in order to ensure financial stability; and the global value of Premier League broadcast rights, with the 2019/20 – 2021/22 cycle being only slightly higher than the previous cycle, thereby reducing clubs’ desire to spend significantly in the transfer market.

Tim Bridge, director in the sports business group at Deloitte said: ‘With central distributions to clubs now likely to remain around current levels until at least the end of the 2021/22 season, clubs are potentially taking a more long-term view to their transfer strategies.

‘With broadcast rights only increasing marginally, the emphasis is now on clubs to grow revenue through their own activity and as such, it would not be a surprise to see the larger Premier League clubs still attempting to sign the world’s most high-profile and high-value players in the future.’

Although gross transfer expenditure has decreased for the first time since the 2011/12 season, there has been a record level of net transfer spend of £905m in 2018/19 (player purchases less player sales). This ongoing trend reflects the fact that the Premier League is the highest importer of talent in the world with its clubs prioritising on-field performance ahead of maximising player trading profits.

Bridge said: ‘Of the Premier League’s total expenditure in 2018/19, 72% related to players acquired from overseas with clubs also increasingly seeking loan arrangements with options to buy to try and protect themselves from excessive transfer fees on unproven Premier League talent.’

The Premier League was again the highest-spending league in European football during the January transfer window. Next-highest was Serie A, with total transfer expenditure of around £140m.

The ‘big six’ Premier League clubs accounted for 43% of total gross expenditure in January 2019 compared to 62% in 2018. Those clubs currently in the bottom six of the table recorded spending of £20m (13% of total gross expenditure) - a reduction of £70m from January 2018.

Chelsea’s signing of Christian Pulisic represents the highest outlay from a Premier League club in this year’s window, however, he will not arrive at the club until the summer.

Report by Pat Sweet

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