BREAKING: Premier League clubs told ‘take a look at themselves’ over £2BN transfers in cost of living crisis
MPs have branded the Premier League’s £2BN transfer spending spree as ‘obscene’ and insisted the game needs be ‘brought back down to earth’ as the country braces for a cost-of-living crisis.
The English top flight broke its own record for the most money spent on new players in the summer transfer window, which closed yesterday.
Fuelled by new owners keen to make their mark, record TV deals and desperation to qualify for the Champions League, or simply to survive in the top division, clubs went well beyond the previous high of £1.45BN spent in 2017.
Chelsea topped the spending charts during the summer transfer window this season
Sportsmail’s graphic revealing the big spending of the Premier League’s owners
But the extravagance has horrified politicians and some fans alike, and even financial analysts within the game admit the profligacy of club owners jars with the wider financial situation.
Supporters took to social media today to declare the sums involved as ‘sickening’, ‘obscene’ and ‘repugnant’ at a time when the country is tightening its belt in the face of rocketing food and energy bills.
However, sources close to Premier League clubs point out that the total spend as a proportion of income this year is about the same as in 2017, at just over 30 per cent. They say expenditure has increased as the league’s income has risen due to more lucrative TV deals.
But MP Clive Efford, a lifelong Millwall supporter and season ticket holder, told Sportsmail that clubs must dip their hands into their pockets again, this time to help out local communities facing hardship.
£70M Chelsea signing Wesley Fofana poses for a photograph with chairman Todd Boehly
‘When this happens during a cost-of-living crisis, when there is inflation for food and energy, costs are so high, it underlines the madness of football,’ said Mr Efford, a former shadow sports minister and a member of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee.
‘Transfer deadline day does not put football in a good light. It is pretty obscene, at a time like this’ added the Labour member for Eltham in south east London.
‘Clubs should take a hard look at themselves,’ said Mr Efford.
The MP added: ‘They should feel ashamed today. Football as a whole should come together and provide some sort of fund to assist people at this time and show they do understand and they do have the communities they serve at heart. They should be contributing something.
‘They cannot sit there and just say we are international businesses and thumb their noses at everyone [while] spending this sort of money. It is made on the back of those communities that have sustained the clubs over generations. They should be putting more back.’
Summer arrival Gabriel Jesus (centre) has helped Arsenal start the season unbeaten
Chelsea have spent the most of any club in Europe. American Todd Boehly, the new owner, assumed the role of interim sporting director in the post-Roman Abramovich era, and acted like a ‘kid in a sweet shop’, according to Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville, splashing out £258.5million on seven players.
Newcastle also have new owners, and their Saudi backers have spent £122m on four players, including striker Alexander Isak for a club-record £60m.
Another owner who has joined the Premier League is Evangelos Marinakis. While the Greek media mogul and shipping magnate has had the keys to Nottingham Forest for five years, this is the first time he has been in the big league and Forest have brought in 21 players for more than £160M.
The English top flight is now comfortably the richest league in Europe. Revenues fell during Covid, but they have been back on the rise. Accounting giant Deloitte estimates income will hit a record £6bn this year, surpassing pre-pandemic levels.
Erling Haaland joined Manchester City in a value-for-money £50million move from Germany
‘What we’ve seen is Premier League clubs, especially, kind of come to the market this summer with real confidence,’ Chris Wood, assistant director in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, told Sky News.
‘Buoyed by, I guess, a handful of circumstantial things at clubs – such as new ownership, new managers in place. But also, kind of been buoyed and emboldened by the increase in broadcast rights.’
But Mr Wood acknowledged the level of transfer spending has become uncomfortable.
He said: ‘Obviously, the numbers that we see, whether it’s transfer fees, whether it’s player salaries, are kind of jarring in these times with the pressures everyone’s under.’
MP Ian Mearns, the chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group of Football Supporters, was more direct.
Willian has signed for Fulham on a one-year deal after leaving Brazilian club Corinthians
‘[Football] needs to be brought back down to earth,’ he told Sportsmail.
The Labour politician, who represents Gateshead, is a fervent Newcastle United supporter, and he is concerned about fans’ ability to find the money for tickets as costs go up.
‘It’s taking the game beyond what the vast majority of football fans and ordinary citizens can even dream of,’ he added.
‘You are talking about players earning in a year more than what many, many working people will earn in their entire lifetime. Sometimes a few times more.
English giants Manchester United spent over £200million during the summer transfer window
‘This is an aspect of the game that an [independent regulator for football] needs to look at, if and when the fan led review brings a regulator into place.
‘It seems divorced from the reality of ordinary people’s lives,’ added Mr Mearns.
‘It does seem as though it is out of touch with current reality of people’s situations.
‘There are a lot of people who would love to go to the match but they are thinking twice about it in the current situation.’
While the majority of fans demand new signings and the recruitment of the best available players in each transfer window, some believe the football-money-go-round has gone too far.
‘It’s immoral, never more-so in these times of financial hardship for so many,’ said Terry Sinnett, a Swansea fan, on Twitter.
‘It’s on a different planet…so divorced from reality,’ agreed Stewie B.
‘And there’s the reason I fell out of love with ‘top class’ football,’ added another fan. ‘Sickening to be throwing that sort of cash about and the naysayers will chant the ‘it’s what the market dictates’ mantra. Hollow sentiments.’
New Chelsea owner Todd Boehly has splashed the cash on transfers, including Wesley Fofana
Anthony McCarthy, a Middlesbrough supporter took to social media, too. ‘It’s obscene, morally repugnant, especially given the sums they expect fans to fork out for tickets and kits.’
The cost-of-living crisis could yet hit football and the broadcasters. Some supporters predict the number of subscribers accessing live matches via BT Sport, Sky and Amazon could fall as other bills are hiked.
Some clubs may see attendances drop, but those elite sides in the Premier League, which have spent the most money, tend to be heavily oversubscribed. If the economic downturn is sustained, season ticket sales may suffer next season.
However, the vast majority of income in the top flight is generated by the Premier League’s broadcast deals, which are fixed for three years, plus TV revenue and prize money from European competitions for the top clubs.
Domestic broadcast deals have rolled over at the same £4.5bn value as the previous three following the pandemic, while international broadcasters, particular in the US and Scandinavia, agreed to pay more, taking TV revenue to £10bn in the three-year rights cycle.
The huge spending in the top flight will sharpen concerns in the EFL, where clubs receive only a fraction of the revenues earned at the top table.
A new financial settlement between the Premier League and the rest of the football pyramid is still under discussion following the Tracey Crouch review of football governance last year. The EFL wants more money handed down in so-called solidarity payments.
As its stands, the gap between the Premier League and the rest is growing ever wider.
‘PL transfer window spend…in one of 2 windows this season [is] 2,639 times our solidarity,’ tweeted Andy Holt, the owner of League One Accrington Stanley. ‘They say it’s tough at the top… I know which end of the stick I’d prefer to be hold of.’
However, the Premier League would point out that the EFL has benefited from some of the expenditure. For example, more than £140M has been spent on players from Championship clubs and four per cent on top of what clubs pay in transfer fees helps fund academies.
And there is a wider benefit, too. In the last financial year, top flight clubs paid £3.6BN in tax.
The gap between the English top tier and the other leagues in Europe is also widening. European clubs fear that the Premier League sides are well placed for a period of domination in sporting competition, but also in their ability to steal away the best talent with huge wages. It is already happening.
In May, the former Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis, who is now at AC Milan, said there had to be a ‘competitive balance’ between the Premier League and other European leagues.
Gazidis, supported the European Super League when it launched and failed in April 2021. He told The Times: ‘The reality is the Premier League is the Super League. The rest of European football will not be able to just accept that and allow the Premier League to have the global landscape to itself.’