January transfer window spending slumps as COVID pandemic hits football finances

Premier League clubs spent just £70m in the January transfer window, new figures from Deloitte show – the lowest amount since 2012 as the coronavirus pandemic weighed on their finances.

The sum compares to £230m splashed out a year ago, with the end of the Brexit transition period also cited as a factor for the lower spending this time round.

Just 24 transfers were completed by England’s top-flight clubs as loan deals and free signings were favoured by many, compared with an average of 46 across the last three seasons, according to the report.

Other major European leagues were similarly subdued, with spending across the German, Spanish, French and Italian top-flights down from €660m (£581m) to €195m (£171m).

Recent analysis by Deloitte suggested the world’s top 20 revenue-generating clubs would miss out on more than €2bn in revenue over the course of this season and the last as a result of the pandemic.

It has meant matches largely being played behind closed doors or with severely reduced spectator numbers.

That lost revenue could “act as the catalyst in creating a shift in how clubs approach the transfer market over the next few seasons”, the report said.

Still, the Premier League‘s net spending of £950m (players bought minus players sold) for the 2020-21 season set a new record.

Deloitte said the January fall in spending came “as clubs exercised caution amid the highly uncertain environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic”.

It was also the first transfer window since the introduction of a post-Brexit points-based system for English clubs to sign foreign players.

New rules include Premier League clubs can’t sign foreign players under 18, are limited to three overseas signings for players under 21, and can only sign six foreign players per season.

Three quarters of the spending this month was accounted for by just three transfers: Said Benrahma completing a permanent move to West Ham, Amad Diallo to Manchester United, and Morgan Sanson to Aston Villa.

Dan Jones, partner at the Deloitte’s sports business group, said: “Premier League clubs were understandably cautious in the January transfer window given the ongoing financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Despite this, Premier League clubs’ very busy summer window, at a time when the rest of European football was more restrained, saw total net expenditure for the 2020-21 season reach a new record level of £950m.

“It remains to be seen if the relatively low activity in January will continue throughout 2021. We certainly do not expect to see another new record this summer.”

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