Soccer. The transfer window not very fair play for English clubs


They are far away, the beginning of the pandemic and its beautiful reforming intentions. A time when football leaders recognized that the headlong rush of football business could no longer last. This crisis was to act as a salutary electric shock to interrupt the financial and sporting gap between the big clubs and the others. Another football is possible, they said. Promises bind only those who believe in them. Two and a half years later, nothing has changed. Worse, the system is racing again. The transfer market, which concentrated the bulk of criticism in 2020 for its crazy and opaque transactions, started again, driven in particular by the stratospheric spending of English clubs.

After a lull in the last two years, investments by Big 5 clubs (England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France) have soared. This is shown in a report published in September by the Football Observatory of the International Center for Sports Studies (Cies). In 2022, European clubs spent a whopping 6.2 billion euros during the winter and summer transfer windows, an increase of 61% compared to 2021. This is « the second highest value ever recorded, only 7% below the 2019 record”, explain researchers Raffaele Poli, Loïc Ravenel and Roger Besson.

In this feast, Premier League clubs stand out with 3.01 billion euros of investment, almost half of the expenditure of Big 5 clubs. This is 1.3 billion more than in 2021. record. It is Chelsea who have invested the most in the portfolio this year (333 million euros), ahead of Manchester United (268 million), Barcelona (267 million) and Newcastle United (259 million), recently bought by Saudi funds. . “The investments of the 20 most active clubs (13 are English, including 7 among the top 10 – Editor’s note) represent almost 60% of the total of the teams of the Big 5, which reflects the strong differences existing in the financial means”, analyzes l ‘study.

So rich and so in deficit

A trend that has been confirmed over the past decade (2013-2022) and explains the gap, season after season, between the haves and the others. There, too, Chelsea holds the lead with an average of 181.5 million euros in transfer fees per year, ahead of Barcelona (181.1 million) and the two Manchester clubs (City, 180.6, and United , 175.4). The expenditure of the 20 most active European clubs over the last ten seasons represents 52% of the total investments of the teams of the Big 5. « This shows the financial power of a handful of dominant teams », underline the economists.

To better understand the reality of the economy of the transfer market, the report also details the net balance sheets of the operations of the various leagues and clubs over the last decade. Unsurprisingly, the Premier League, which is the richest in the Old Continent due to the stratospheric amount of its domestic and international television rights (3.5 billion euros annually), ranks first with a cumulative deficit between 2013 and 2022. of almost 9.6 billion euros (Manchester United and City have the most negative balance over the decade with respectively – 1.27 billion and – 902 million). In comparison, the Italian Serie A takes second place with « only » a deficit of 1.4 billion euros ahead of the Spanish Liga (- 800 million). On the other hand, despite the very negative balance of Paris-Saint-Germain (- 868 million, 3rd European position over the decade), Ligue 1 is the only Big 5 championship with a positive balance (+ 350 million).

« A monstrous purchasing power »

« Today, economic criteria determine sports results more than ever, » says Jean-François Brocard, economist at the Center for Sports Law and Economics in Limoges. The European market is dominated by the Premier League, which exceeds all other leagues in terms of revenue, and a few isolated clubs such as Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, ​​Bayern Munich, sometimes Italian clubs, PSG and that is pretty much everything… The Premier League has monstrous buying power and some English 2nd Division clubs have even more revenue than League 1 clubs.”

A representative example, if it were still needed, illustrates this yawning gap. “In 2018-19, Chelsea had up to 84 players under contract. He lent most of them to clubs in the 2nd or 3rd division, in the Netherlands, in Germany… And, among the 84, about fifteen inevitably came out which allowed the first team to shine. It didn’t bring in a lot of money for Chelsea, but that was not the goal, slips Jean-François Brocard. On the other hand, sportingly, it made it possible to diversify the risk and to have results, since the club won the Champions League (2012 and 2021). »


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