Europe’s top leagues drop US$2.3bn on players


Thu, Sep 05, 2013 - Page 19

The world’s richest soccer league is getting even richer, although the wealth of English clubs is also benefiting teams overseas.

In less than three months during the European transfer window, more than US$2.3 billion was spent by clubs in the continent’s top five leagues, one-third of which was shipped by Premier League sides overseas, according to an analysis by accountancy firm Deloitte.

Such spending might seem at odds with the economic hardships being experienced by many fans in Europe and the UK, but transfer splurges are not slowing down. Despite the Financial Fair Play regulations in European soccer, the days of big-money moves are not over.

“If a price of a player is high or not high, I think this is the market and we cannot intervene in this market,” FIFA president Sepp Blatter said on Tuesday.

In less than three months, £490 million (US$760 million) of the £630 million paid out by English sides landed in bank accounts abroad, a rise of 60 percent year-on-year.

The record spending spree was in part the result of Tottenham generating 100 million euros (US$132 million) by selling Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in a world-record deal.

Even though Spaniards have been in recession for much of the past four years, they turned out in their thousands on Monday to laud the arrival of a player reportedly being paid about US$461,000 a week. The head of world soccer can see how incongruous that looks.

“You say the country is a poor country or indebted, but in football you always find money,” Blatter said. “If a player is the value of that [100 million euros], I doubt, I doubt, but I cannot stop this. Gareth Bale, he can prove now that he is better than [Cristiano] Ronaldo.”

With the European transfer window shut, FIFA on Tuesday said that 10,454 player transfers have been made worldwide so far this year worth at total of US$3.367 billion — a 29 percent annual increase.

From those deals, agents have earned US$169 million, 20 percent more than they earned last year.

Spain and England have been the busiest business partners, with Spanish clubs selling 38 players worth US$227 million to their English counterparts, FIFA said.

That helped Spain’s top-flight clubs make an overall transfer profit in the summer of 110 million euros, while Italian sides had a 12 million euro surplus.

However, financial planning was not so astute elsewhere.

Net spending by Premier League clubs was £400 million, while in France it was 150 million euros and in Germany 60 million euros.

The spending power of England’s top-flight clubs has been strengthened by new television deals that are generating more than US$8.5 billion over the next three years.

“Testament to the impact [the TV revenue] is having is in the scale of Premier League gross spending, as well as the gulf in net spending between the Premier League and other European leagues,” Alex Thorpe from Deloitte said.