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The Business of Transfers: Part I

June 14, 2024

The Business of Transfers: Part I - SBI Barcelona

2024/25 football transfer season is here. While English football transfer window officially opens today, rest of European window would open officially on 1st July. It is a period of hectic negotiations for players, managers and the backroom staff keeping most fans glued to their mobiles for the latest updates. There will be some surprises, many smiles and some heartbreaks too

While transfer activity sets the foundation of on-field performance, it is a serious business worth billions off-field. In this two-part series, we evaluate the business behind transfers and recap of previous transfer windows along with some analysis on spends, net balances and other parameters

Transfer Spends

As per UEFA European Club Finance & Investment Landscape Report 2024, the annual value of European football clubs’ transfer cost including summer and winter windows was €6bn in 2022 FY. That included the amortisation charges, impairment charges, non-capitalised transfer costs (mainly loan fees) and any non-capitalised agent fees. Needless to state that it’s the ‘big five’ leagues who drive the value. In 2022 summer window alone, they accounted for €3.2bn or 53% of the total spend only on players which does not include the agent fees

The value for 2023 is likely to be much larger. The recorded spends on players alone by the ‘big five’ league clubs in 2023/34 summer window is €5.75bn

The Business of Transfers: Part I - SBI Barcelona

The pandemic period decreased spends considerably which has come back roaring as can be seen particularly buoyed by Chelsea FC spends topping €1bn in a single season, though it is not likely to be repeated

Transfer Income

A balance between expenditure and income is seen as the ideal solution, however, that seldom is the case. As per the same UEFA Europe Benchmarking report, aggregate income generated through transfers in 2022 FY was €3.8bn across top tier leagues in Europe with the ‘big five’ leagues accounting 62% or €2.37bn in summer window

In 2023/24, summer transfer income rose for the ‘big five’ substantially to €4.99bn with a renewed transfer push post-pandemic period constriction and tighter regulations imposed by some of the leagues

The Business of Transfers: Part I - SBI Barcelona

The Net Balance

With all the spends and incomes, it’s important to look at the net transfer costs which help in creating a sustainable financial foundation for the clubs and as a result, for the leagues themselves

In 2021/22 summer window, four of the five ‘big’ leagues accounted for a negative net transfer cost with Bundesliga being the exception mainly due to the reduced spending / buying from clubs. The total net transfer cost in the window was -€834.8mn

The situation improved somewhat in the following summer transfer window where 2 leagues, Bundesliga and Ligue 1 ended in positive net and Serie A was close finishing at -€3.4mn. However for Premier League, the resultant was considerably high doubling its negative net cost over previous season to end at -€1.35bn

The 23/24 summer window was the most sustainable for all leagues who maintained the financial discipline imposed by the federations to result in positive net spend (Ligue 1 was almost neutral to end the window at -€24.4mn). The high spending Premier League, however, ended the window, almost similar to previous season, at -€1.3bn

A glimpse of the 3-year cumulative net transfer balance of the ‘big five’ leagues is given below. Note the huge negative balance of Premier League contrasting with the high positive balance of Bundesliga

The Business of Transfers: Part I - SBI Barcelona

Conclusion

It would be interesting to see how the European 24/25 summer transfer window shapes up given the strong emphasis on FFP/PSR regulations from individual leagues and UEFA. The focus will not only be on smart spending & quality purchases but also on managing the guidelines

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