Roman Abramovich and Sheik Mansour are two of the most influential figures in English football history. Their respective takeovers of Chelsea and Manchester City led to both clubs being financially supported to the extent that they have taken their teams to the very top of European football. Their ability to buy whichever players they want from the market has been heavily criticized in recent seasons but as the football industry grows, many clubs have followed suit. Now, Premier League teams are faced with an unfortunate task, they must keep their fans happy by bringing in new talent to the club but if they spend too much then they’re labelled to have “bought the league”, so how can they win?
Despite Premier League clubs spending around £1.2Bn on transfers in the summer transfer window this season, it was the first time in eight years that Premier League summer spending had fallen from the previous summer with around £1.4Bn spent in 2017. Regardless, the numbers remain astronomical but why is it that when Manchester City, Manchester United and Liverpool spend hundreds of millions in the transfer window they’re criticized but when Tottenham fail to make a single signing and instead focus on what’s already in the club, that they’re also criticized. It appears that Premier League fans, pundits and critics are still yet to find a balance between what is and isn’t considered acceptable.
Manchester City have been hugely successful in English football since the 2008 takeover and have won three Premier League titles, three League Cup titles and one FA Cup title. Similarly, Chelsea have profited to an even greater extent from Abramovich’s July 2003 takeover and have since won five Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, one UEFA Europa League triumph, and of course their famous and only Champions League victory in 2012. Manchester United are another club that has benefitted from big investment into the club and while their ownership is not as straightforward, they do have considerable funding as one of the richest clubs in World football.
Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham have not been so lucky, instead, they’ve often resorted to their lack of funding as an excuse for their lack of success in recent years. However, it appears that now, almost all Premier League clubs have the ability to spend around £100 million or more during the summer window. Even Fulham managed it this season, so surely this can’t be used an excuse anymore?
I think the truth is that every club now has to spend money to stay competitive. The industry of football itself and the money within it will continue to grow as the addition of new technology will mean more money into the game, more TV rights deals, more expensive matchday tickets, more expensive merchandise, more prize money, the list goes on. The fact of the matter is that there’s more money in football than ever before and that will continue to be the case because of all the different economic factors.
One of the main reasons that transfer prices are increasing is because selling clubs know that the buying club has more money and they will push to get as much as they can. Manchester United signed Paul Pogba for around £90 million because Juventus knew that Mourinho had that money at his disposal. This then prompted Liverpool to demand even more for Philippe Coutinho because they deemed him to be a better player than Pogba and therefore valued him higher. Barcelona paid this much and the sales of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe are currently the marking point for European clubs. Also, some of these investments are worth it, if you consider the price that PSG paid for Mbappe, over time it’s likely that they’ll actually make a profit from him with more people wanting to watch, more sponsorships, more advertisements, more prize money, etc.
In terms of the Premier League, the TV deals are incredibly lucrative and teams are getting over £100 million no matter where they finish in the table. They reinvest that money and the snowball effect also occurs but what’s going on at Spurs? Tottenham’s owners have been very reluctant to allocate generous budgets to their manager and have instead focused on increasing the brand of the club with a new stadium, tying players down with new contracts and investing in commercialising themselves and getting a larger global reach. This is something that will also pay off for Tottenham and something that Liverpool did over the past decades. Liverpool invested hugely in expanding their brand across North America and Asia and the owners waited for a manager they trusted before allocating a large budget. Now, they’re confident in Jurgen Klopp’s ability to bring success to the club and are willing to give him the tools necessary to achieve that.
Overall, it’s important to realise that the spending in football has a purpose. Clubs are businesses, and they wouldn’t be spending this much money if they weren’t making a profit which is the simplest way of looking at it. Kyle Walker recently said Liverpool’s spending was “a compliment to [Manchester City]” because everyone has to “keep pace” with them as he admitted to their large spending over the last few seasons. Football is evolving, and if you want to be at the very top, you have to spend money which is why Spurs will be criticized. However, it’s also important to ensure that football is a fair game and that ownership doesn’t dictate success so perhaps it’s okay to spend around £100 million but if you’re spending above £200 million like many top clubs have done then teams that don’t have that ownership, stand no chance.
It’s a very controversial topic and especially relevant at the moment and depending on which team you support, you’re likely to have a different view on the matter. So let us know what your thoughts are on this topic and how teams can get the right balance? Should it be about net spend? Share your views by tweeting @AllOutFootball_ using #AOF.