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Premier League transfer spend drops £200m to £1.23bn, after 10-year growth bubble

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By Paul Nicholson and Andrew Warshaw

August 10 – The amount spent in the summer transfer window by English Premier League clubs has fallen for the first time in eight years. Clubs spent £1.23 billion in the window that closed yesterday, a drop of £200 million, but still £180 million up on the net expenditure record of £685 million in summer 2016, according to Deloitte figures.

The summer deadline window was moved from 31 August to the day before the Premier League season starts after a vote by clubs last year to ensure a more level playing field.

Players can still leave the Premier League before the end of this month but no-one can now come in.

Looking across the ‘big five’ European league club spending in this window, the next highest spending league is Serie A, with a reported gross spend of around £910 million, followed by La Liga (£680 million), the Bundesliga (£400 million) and Ligue 1 (£350 million). For these leagues the transfer window does not end until the end of the month and spending can be expected to continue.

In England the highest-spending clubs were Liverpool (£165 million), Chelsea (£120 million), Fulham (£105 million) and Leicester City (£100 million), who made up about 40% of the aggregate gross player transfer expenditure by Premier League clubs. “Only three clubs recorded net player transfer receipts (Newcastle United, Tottenham Hotspur and Watford) as at 9 August,” said Deloitte.

While overall spend may be down, Premier League clubs did spend a record £880 million to transfer-in players from overseas clubs (compared to £770 million in 2017). This represented 72% of aggregate gross player transfer expenditure by Premier League clubs, compared to 54% in summer 2017 (and average of 60% for all summer transfer windows), pointed out Deloitte it appears England’s relative success at the 2018 World Cup has not translated through to its clubs investing wholeheartedly in English talent.

Tim Bridge, director in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, does not expect the drop in spending to necessarily signify the market is radically changing. “Premier League clubs’ gross player transfer expenditure of £1.2 billion continues to demonstrate the sheer purchasing power of the most commercially successful football league in the world. With Premier League clubs’ aggregate revenues forecast to reach £5 billion in 2018/19, clubs can well-afford to significantly invest in on-pitch talent in the quest for both success and survival,” he commented.

The slowdown in the volume of player transfer spending was also experienced in the EFL Championship with clubs forking out £155 million on player transfers-in, a decrease from the £195 million spent in summer 2017;

Deloitte says that “since the introduction of the player transfer window system in January 2003, aggregate gross player transfer spending has exceeded £11.9 billion, with around 82% of this being spent in summer transfer windows.”

Spurred to justify non-spending complaints

Almost every top-flight club strengthened their squad either on deadline day or in the weeks before, the clear exception being Tottenham Hotspur who set a record for being the first top-flight English club since the summer window was introduced in 2003 not to bring in a single new name to bolster the squad.

Tottenham, who have achieved three consecutive top-three finishes under their highly regarded manager Mauricio Pochettino, are still paying for a lavish state-of-the-art new stadium estimated at over £800m and it would appear the mounting cost prevented the club splashing the cash on new players at the same time.

Nevertheless, Tottenham’s official supporters’ club released a statement saying they were ‘dismayed’ by zero signings.

The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust  expressed grave concerns over the lack of new recruitment  even though the club did manage to hold on to their existing crop of elite players, not least England striker Harry Kane.

Asking for a full explanation, the statement said: “We do not believe in spending money or signing players for the sake of it. We recognise the achievement in keeping our squad together, for now at least, and in getting key players to agree new contracts.”

“Over the last few years, a manager we revere has forged an exciting team that has challenged for top honours. And more fans than the Club cares to acknowledge recognise the challenges and achievements of running a sustainable business and building a top class stadium.

“But fans come to watch the team. A team that will start the season with many of its key members still tired after the World Cup. And a squad that most rational observers would agree could benefit from more depth. It is not unreasonable to question if it was really the case that, alone among Europe’s top clubs, Spurs could find no player who would improve their squad while our rivals strengthened theirs.”

“We love what has been developed, but for all the great football we’ve seen over the last few seasons, there are no trophies to show. We believe fans are entitled to a full and credible explanation of what has happened this summer.”

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