September 11 – Saudi Pro League’s transfer window closed at the end of last week showing club spending hitting a record $957 million and rocketing the Saudi clubs into being the second highest spending league in the world behind the English Premier League’s $1.39 billion spend in the summer window.
Analysis by the Delotte Sport Business Group found almost half of the transfer fees received by Premier League clubs from overseas ($698 million) came from Saudi Pro League clubs ($312 million).
Receipts from Saudi Pro League clubs in the other Big 5 leagues were $148 million (Ligue 1), $122 million (Serie A), $116 million (LaLiga) and $32 million (Bundesliga).
The figures show that the sudden impact of the Saudi clubs on the transfer market cannot be dismissed quite as quickly as some have tried. The biggest beneficiaries of the SPL clubs look to be the ‘big five’ league clubs, and generally the leading clubs within those leagues.
Saudi clubs bought 94 overseas players including 37 from Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues.
Of the Premier League’s transfer receipts of $312 million, all of the acquisitions were from were concentrated among eight clubs, with four of these among the Premier League’s ‘big six’. Fulham and Liverpool, saw 100% of their transfer receipts come from Saudi Pro League clubs.
Izzy Wray, Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, said, “The ambitious number of player acquisitions and the caliber of players signed by Saudi Pro League clubs demonstrate the Kingdom’s commitment to propelling the SPL to become a leading football league on the world-stage. This is still early days of what we can call phase one of the Saudi Pro League project, and the futuristic view is also reflected by the lowered average age of the league compared to last season.”
“This marks the first time since 2016 that another international league has outspent any of Europe’s ‘big five’ during a football transfer window, with new players bringing the promise of new fans and partners to strengthen the SPL’s prominence. European football continues to be the benchmark for the game globally, and the Saudi investment in the game will divert its focus towards the infrastructure, to elevate the level of Asian football.”
Gross transfer spend across Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues totalled $6.10 billion in this summer’s window, an almost U$1.25 billion increase on the 2022 total of $4.85 billion. Gross spend increased compared to the previous summer in all the ‘big five’ leagues except La Liga.
“The SPL spending is still at one third of the Premier League’s gross spend this summer, the focus of Saudi clubs will now be on securing the success of the league’s transformation journey and its financial sustainability. The development of the league will depend on growing the professionalization and governance of clubs, the development of young playing talent and attracting a new, international fanbase,” said Wray.
“The implementation of the Kingdom’s privatisation programme is likely to draw a wave of interest around the SPL, potentially fueling the current spending pattern for the windows to come. With the spending power of the SPL already surpassing some of Europe’s ‘big five’, it remains to be seen the impact this will have on the make-up of elite football for future generations.”
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