Premier League clubs January spend falls to £180m, but net spend hits record levels for the 2018/19 season

Leicester City King Power

Premier League clubs spent £180m in the January 2019 transfer window, according to analysis by Deloitte’s Sports Business Group. This brings total gross spending by Premier League clubs in the 2018/19 season to an estimated £1.4 billion, the second-highest season ever following record spend of £1.9 billion in 2017/18. However, it is the first season since 2011/12 that has seen a year-on-year decrease in transfer expenditure from Premier League clubs, with total spending in January 2019 down by £250m compared to January 2018.

Tim Bridge, director in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, commented: “As we approach a decisive phase of the season, Premier League clubs’ January transfer spending has been relatively muted in comparison to what we have seen in previous years.”

The considerable reduction in January activity is attributable to a combination of factors including:

  • reduced activity from the ‘big six’ clubs;
  • a perceived lack of value in the transfer market;
  • the strongest ever financial position of Premier League clubs, reducing the need to sell their best talent in order to ensure financial stability; and
  • the global value of Premier League broadcast rights, with the 2019/20 – 2021/22 cycle being only slightly higher than the previous cycle, thereby reducing clubs’ desire to spend significantly in the transfer market.

Bridge added: “With central distributions to clubs now likely to remain around current levels until at least the end of the 2021/22 season, clubs are potentially taking a more long-term view to their transfer strategies.

“Whilst Premier League clubs have spent less this January than we have recently become accustomed to, our recent Football Money Leaguehighlights the impact that individual, high-profile player signings can have on a club’s financial performance. With broadcast rights only increasing marginally, the emphasis is now on clubs to grow revenue through their own activity and as such, it would not be a surprise to see the larger Premier League clubs still attempting to sign the world’s most high-profile and high-value players in the future.”

Although gross transfer expenditure has decreased for the first time since the 2011/12 season, there has been a record level of net transfer spend of £905m in 2018/19. This ongoing trend reflects the fact that the Premier League is the highest importer of talent in the world with its clubs prioritising on-field performance ahead of maximising player trading profits, the latter forming a key component of the business model of clubs in most other leagues.

Bridge concluded: “Of the Premier League’s total expenditure in 2018/19, 72% related to players acquired from overseas with clubs also increasingly seeking loan arrangements with options to buy to try and protect themselves from excessive transfer fees on unproven Premier League talent.”

Additional findings from Deloitte’s analysis of the January 2019 transfer window include:

Premier League clubs spent £180m to acquire new players in the January 2019 transfer window, falling well short of the previous year’s record (2018: £430m; 2017: £215m; 2016: £175m; 2015: £130m; 2014: £130m). A summary of Premier League clubs’ player transfer spending for each of the January transfer windows (2003-2019) is set out in the chart below;

Premier League clubs recorded net transfer spend of £55m in January 2019 (2018: net spend of £90m; 2017: net receipts of £40m; 2016: net spend of £100m; 2015: net spend of £40m; 2014: net spend of £35m);

The ‘big six’ Premier League clubs accounted for 43% of total gross expenditure in January 2019 compared to 62% in 2018. Those clubs currently in the bottom six of the table recorded spending of £20m (13% of total gross expenditure) – a reduction of £70m from January 2018;

Chelsea’s signing of Christian Pulisic represents the highest outlay from a Premier League club in this year’s window, however, he will not arrive at the club until the summer;

Deadline day expenditure by Premier League clubs totalled £50m falling short of the record deadline day spend in last year’s January transfer window of £150m;

Championship clubs spent a total of £60m, more than double last year’s total of £30m, with Stoke City in particular strengthening their squad in the hope of pushing towards the play-off positions to secure a return to the Premier League;

The Premier League was again the highest-spending league in European football during the January transfer window (£180m/€205m). The next-highest spending league was Serie A, with total transfer expenditure of around £140m/€160m. Clubs in Ligue 1 spent around £65m/€75m, with Bundesliga clubs spending around £65m/€75m. La Liga clubs spent around £65m/€70m; and

Since the introduction of the player transfer window system in January 2003, aggregate gross player transfer spending by Premier League clubs has exceeded £12 billion, with this representing c.28% as a proportion of aggregate revenue. Around 19% (£2.3 billion) of the aggregate gross player transfer spend has been in the January transfer windows.