Feb 03, 2016

    Record spending to avoid exit


    FEAR of missing out on the English Premier League's huge television money bonanza this year has propelled transfer spending beyond £1 billion (S$2 billion) for the first time.

    England's 20 elite clubs have collectively spent more than £1 billion on new players in the season's two transfer windows, financial consultants Deloitte revealed before the mid-season transfer deadline fell on Monday.

    "We've seen Premier League clubs again use the January window to invest significantly in playing talent," said Dan Jones from Deloitte's Sports Business Group.

    English top-flight clubs broke new ground by shelling out £870 million on new talent in the 2015 close-season transfer window - a rise of 4 per cent on the previous record, established the previous summer.

    Together, they splurged around £172 million in the January window, tipping Premier League spending into 10-figure territory. It further confirms England's status as football's financial powerhouses, where 17 of the world's 30 richest clubs reside according to the latest data.

    But whereas close-season spending was driven by the leading clubs - Manchester City twice breaking their transfer record to sign Raheem Sterling (£44 million rising to £49 million) and Kevin de Bruyne (£55 million); Manchester United betting the house on unheralded French teenager Anthony Martial (£36 million rising to £61.5 million) - in January it has been a different story.

    Sky and BT Sport's blockbuster £5.14 billion domestic TV rights deal kicks in at the start of next season, with the sale of overseas rights - expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks - set to swell that figure to £8 billion for the period 2016-19.

    It means that the cost of relegation has never been higher, and it is the clubs at the wrong end of the Premier League table who have been opening their wallets the most eagerly during the mid-season transfer period.

    Newcastle United, third from bottom ahead of the mid-week fixtures, have been the top spenders, parting with around £29 million to sign England pair Andros Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey and Senegal midfielder Henri Saivet.

    The Premier League's other north-east representatives, Sunderland, have brought in five players, including a £9 million swoop for Tunisian playmaker Wahbi Khazri from Bordeaux.

    Bournemouth broke their transfer record by paying around £10 million to Wolverhampton Wanderers for former Arsenal youth-team striker Benik Afobe. Norwich City, Swansea City and Watford have also been active.

    "We've seen some quite robust activity from the teams at the lower end of the Premier League and they are spending relatively large fees on selected players," said football finance expert Rob Wilson from Sheffield Hallam University.

    The biggest deal of the window was Stoke City's club-record £18.3 million capture of French midfielder Giannelli Imbula from Porto, which was confirmed shortly before the window shut.

    Although surprise front-runners Leicester City have bolstered their ranks with Ghana defender Daniel Amartey and 19-year-old English winger Demarai Gray, the big boys have kept their powder dry.

    Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool made low-key additions while United and City did no business of note.

    In the Premier League this year, it is fear of the void, rather than the pursuit of glory, that is driving spending to new heights.