TV money fuels spending binge

Updated: 2016-02-03 08:24

By Agence France Presse In London(China Daily)

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Cost of avoiding relegation forces clubs to open vaults

Fear of missing out on the English Premier League's huge television money bonanza in 2016 has vaulted transfer spending beyond $1 billion for the first time.

England's 20 elite clubs collectively spent just more than $1 billion on new players in the season's two transfer windows, financial consultants Deloitte revealed before the midseason transfer deadline fell on Monday.

"We've seen Premier League clubs again use the January window to invest significantly in playing talent," said Dan Jones from Deloitte's Sports Business Group.

"With a day left, the total gross spending this season has already reached $1 billion for the first time. Last January saw $45 million spent by Premier League clubs on the final day of the transfer window and with further spending expected in the closing hours, Premier League gross transfer spending looks set to comfortably eclipse the billion mark for the 2015-16 season."

English top-flight clubs broke new ground by shelling out $250 million on new talent in the 2015 close-season transfer window - a rise of four percent on the previous record, established in 2014.

Together they spent about $110 million in the January window, tipping Premier League spending into 10-figure territory and further confirming England's status as soccer's financial powerhouse, where 17 of the world's 30 richest clubs reside.

But whereas offseason spending was driven by the leading clubs - Manchester City twice breaking its transfer record to sign Raheem Sterling ($12 million rising to $28 million) and Kevin de Bruyne ($15 million); Manchester United betting the house on unheralded French teenager Anthony Martial ($5 million rising to $26 million) - in January it was a different story.

Sky and BT Sport's blockbuster domestic TV rights deal kicks in at the start of next season, with the sale of overseas rights - expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks - set to eclipse $1 billion for the period 2016-19.

It means the cost of relegation has never been higher, and it is the clubs at the wrong end of the Premier League table who have been most eager to open their wallets during the midseason transfer period.

Newcastle busy

Newcastle United, third from the bottom, has been the top spender, parting with about $24 million to sign England pair Andros Townsend and Jonjo Shelvey and Senegal midfielder Henri Saivet.

The Premier League's other northeast representatives, Sunderland, has brought in five players, including $4 million for Tunisian playmaker Wahbi Khazri from Bordeaux.

Bournemouth broke its transfer record by paying about $25 million to Wolverhampton Wanderers for former Arsenal youth team striker Benik Afobe, while Norwich City, Swansea City and Watford have also been active.

"We've seen some quite robust activity from the teams at the lower end of the Premier League and they are spending relatively large fees on selected players," said Sheffield Hallam University soccer finance expert Rob Wilson.

"There is a pressing need to stay up this year to receive the TV money. It's also interesting to see some of the top teams in the Championship (second tier) spending, too. This is also a reaction to the revenues on offer for promoted teams next season."

The biggest deal of the window was Stoke City's club-record $27 million capture of French midfielder Giannelli Imbula from Porto, which was confirmed shortly before the window shut.

Although surprise frontrunner Leicester City has bolstered its ranks with Ghana defender Daniel Amartey and 19-year-old English winger Demarai Gray, the big boys have kept their powder dry.

Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool made low-key additions, while United and City did no business of note.

Top 10 transfer window deals

The top 10 incoming Premier League transfers of the January transfer window after the deadline passed on Monday :

1 Giannelli Imbula, Porto (POR) to Stoke City; 18.3 million pounds ($27 million): Upwardly mobile Stoke set a new club transfer record for the second window running, having previously broken new ground in August when Xherdan Shaqiri joined from Inter Milan in a $5 million deal. Holding midfielder Imbula, 23, arrived from Porto after failing to settle following an offseason move from Marseille. Stoke manager Mark Hughes said: "We've signed a very, very good young player, who's still got a lot of potential."

2 Oumar Niasse, Lokomotiv Moscow (RUS) to Everton; 13 million pounds: Niasse, a 25-year-old Senegal international, arrived at Goodison Park on a 4 1/2-year contract to provide competition for Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku. He was the Russian Premier League's Player of the Year in 2015 and scored 13 goals in 23 appearances for Lokomotiv this season.

3 Jonjo Shelvey, Swansea City to Newcastle United; 12 million pounds*: After falling out of favor at Liberty Stadium, 23-year-old former Liverpool midfielder Shelvey swapped one relegation fight for another by pitching up at St. James' Park. The England midfielder made an immediate impact, playing a role in both goals as Newcastle beat West Ham United 2-1 on his debut.

4 Andros Townsend, Tottenham Hotspur to Newcastle United; 12 million pounds*: Another England international seeking to force his way into national coach Roy Hodgson's plans for Euro 2016. Townsend's final few months at White Hart Lane proved forgettable, with manager Mauricio Pochettino freezing him out after a row with a fitness coach, but Newcastle gave the 24-year-old winger a chance to get his career back on track in the north-east.

5 Benik Afobe, Wolverhampton to Bournemouth; 10 million pounds*: A prolific scorer in England's lower leagues, Afobe notched 32 goals last season for first Milton Keynes Dons and then Wolves. The former Arsenal youth team player was signed to bolster a Bournemouth attacking department that has lost both Callum Wilson and Max Gradel to long-term knee injuries

6 Wahbi Khazri, Bordeaux (FRA) to Sunderland; 9 million pounds*: Tunisia playmaker Khazri was one of five new players to join struggling Sunderland, who are bidding to haul themselves out of the relegation zone. "Wahbi is a quick, dynamic attacking player," said Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce. "He has many attributes, not least his delivery from wide areas and set-pieces and of course his ability to score goals."

7 Steven Naismith, Everton to Norwich City; 8.5 million pounds*: Scotland international Naismith scored a hat-trick for Everton in a 3-1 victory over Chelsea in September, but elected to leave Goodison Park after making only 13 appearances this season. He found the net in his first game in a yellow shirt, drilling home a low shot in a madcap 5-4 home defeat by Liverpool.

8 Alberto Paloschi, Chievo (ITA) to Swansea City; 8 million pounds*: Another team seeking an attacking spark in the hope of avoiding relegation, Swansea boosted their options up front by signing 26-year-old Italian striker Paloschi. The move reunited Paloschi with newly appointed Swansea head coach Francesco Guidolin, for whom he played at Parma between 2008 and 2010.

9 Mohamed Elneny, Basel (SUI) to Arsenal; 5 million pounds*: Arsenal failed to sign a single outfield player during the offseason transfer window, but injuries to key midfielders promoted manager Arsene Wenger to sanction a move for Egyptian international Elneny. The industrious 23-year-old player had been with Basel since 2013, helping the club to three successive Swiss Super League titles in that time.

10 Alexandre Pato, Corinthians (BRA) to Chelsea; loan: Once the great hope of Brazilian soccer, Pato returned to Europe after kickstarting an injury-plagued career in his homeland. The 26-year-old former AC Milan striker, signed to ease the burden on Diego Costa, described the move as "a dream".

* Denotes fee approximate and as reported by British media

TV money fuels spending binge

(China Daily 02/03/2016 page23)