It is with much pleasure that we welcome readers to the March 2022 edition (citation: SLT 2022/1) of our ground-breaking journal Sports Law and Taxation (SLT) and on-line database www.sportslawandtaxation.com.
In this connection, we should mention the united responses by sports bodies around the world to the Russian invasion of Ukraine which have been noted on the SLT website. Worrying times indeed to add to the other disruptions suffered by sports events caused by the COVID-19 pandemic!
We devote this Editorial partly to including texts from two press releases reporting on two important sporting developments since the last issue of SLT.
The first is about the results of the 2022 winter football transfer window, which closed on 31 January 2022; and the second on esports at the forthcoming 2022 Commonwealth Games, that are scheduled to take place in Birmingham, United Kingdom, from 28 July to 8 August 2022. 72 Commonwealth countries are expected to take part in the Games, which will comprise 283 events in 20 sports, with more than 5,000 athletes participating.
Premier League Clubs winter transfer window 2022
Premier League clubs spent a total of £ 295 million in the January 2022 transfer window, more than quadrupling last year’s total of £ 70 million, and marking the second highest January transfer spend ever according to analysis by Deloitte’s Sports Business Group.
This year’s January transfer window reflects the continued world-leading financial resources of Premier League clubs. Gross expenditure (i.e. before including player sales) in the January 2022 window exceeded pre-COVID levels (January 2022: £ 295 million, January 2016-2020 five year average: £ 246 million), up from £ 70 million in January 2021. Premier League clubs recruited 36 players overall in the window, down in comparison to an average of 42 in the January 2018-2020 windows, but up by 16 in comparison to 2021 (20).
Furthermore, Premier League clubs’ net expenditure (i.e. player purchases less player sales) of £ 180 million is the highest ever since the January transfer window was introduced in 2003, emphasising the significance of the financial resources available to Premier League clubs.
Premier League spending accounted for nearly 50% of gross expenditure across Europe’s “big five” leagues.
Dan Jones, partner and head of the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, commented:
“This transfer window indicates that the financial pressures of COVID on Premier League clubs are easing, with spending firmly back to pre-pandemic levels and remarkably among the highest we've ever seen in January.
The Premier League continues to lead the way globally, retaining its status as the world’s biggest domestic football league in financial terms, once again supported by full stadia and securing strong overseas broadcast deals.
Other large European leagues are also edging back to higher spending, but it is Premier League clubs that have notched up the largest total spend in this transfer window, spending almost £ 150 million more than Serie A clubs, the closest competitor.”
The five clubs currently at the bottom of the Premier League spent circa £ 150 million in this year’s January transfer window, over 50% of total expenditure. Gross spend amongst these clubs is up £ 145 million on that of clubs in the same position during last year’s January window, which contributed just 7% (£ 5 million) of the overall total (£ 70 million).
Newcastle United is responsible for the highest proportion (circa £ 85 million) of Premier League clubs’ overall spend and over half of the bottom five clubs’ gross transfer expenditure. As in the January 2021 window, three of the Premier League’s top six revenue generating clubs (Liverpool, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur) spent in this year’s January transfer window, spending circa £ 75 million, in comparison to circa £ 25 million in January 2021.
European transfer market
Europe’s “big five” leagues’ clubs have historically driven spend and activity in the transfer market. In January 2022, Europe’s “big five” leagues made up four of the top five global spenders by league (with only the Bundesliga missing out) after only occupying three of the top five positions in January 2021.
Gross spend increased significantly in La Liga (by 275% to € 75 million) and Ligue 1 (by 225% to € 65 million) resulting in a rise to third (a rise of eight places) and fifth (a rise of five places) highest global spenders respectively. Conversely, the Bundesliga dropped three places to sixth despite a gross spend of € 60 million, which marked an increase of 20% from January 2021; this was by far the lowest year-on-year increase in January spend across Europe’s “big five” leagues (Premier League: 344%, La Liga: 275%, Ligue 1: 225% and Serie A: 106%).
Total gross spend across the “big five” leagues in this spending window reached € 735 million, exceeding last January’s total by € 460 million, but still some way below the circa € 965 million of January 2020. Net expenditure across these five leagues also exceeded the January 2021 total, by € 225 million (January 2022: € 300 million, January 2021: € 75 million), but was € 110 million lower than the January 2020 net expenditure of € 410 million.
Calum Ross, assistant director in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, commented:
“In stark contrast to January 2021, the wider European transfer market appears buoyant. Many clubs are starting to bounce back from significant COVID-induced reductions, with rising revenues re-activating activity within the transfer market.
Provided fans continue to return to stadiums and disruption to the football season ahead remains limited, we should see revenues, and therefore transfer spend, continue to increase in the seasons ahead. For some clubs, the benefit of the investment boom in sport, and football clubs in particular, has acted as a catalyst for January transfer window activity.”
Inaugural Commonwealth Esports Championships set for Birmingham
The Commonwealth Esports Championships will take place at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham on 6-7 August 2022. The Commonwealth Esports Forum – a global convention of thought leaders and idea creators – will be held at the same venue in the lead-up to the Commonwealth Esports Championships, on 5 August 2022.
The Commonwealth Esports Championships will feature esports athletes from across the Commonwealth. Renowned multi-genre global titles are in the final stages of confirmation and will be announced shortly. The event is set to feature exciting demonstrations showcasing active esports and the powerful technologies that support the convergence of sport and esports.
The Commonwealth Esports Championships was sanctioned by the CGF Executive Board to be held at the same time as the 2022 Commonwealth Games whilst being independent of Birmingham 2022 and its sports programme. The Commonwealth Esports Championships will have separate branding, medals, organisation, and governance, led by the GEF and its community of partners.
The event is supported by the Business and Tourism Programme (BATP), which aims to maximise the economic legacy of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, as well as the regional economic development agency, the West Midlands Growth Company, which drives long-term tourism, investment, and major events into the region.
Exploring esports is one of the recommendations outlined in the new Commonwealth Sport 2026/30 Strategic Roadmap. The aspiration is that the innovative inaugural event will engage new audiences, showcase the digital and gaming credentials of the West Midlands and enable the Commonwealth Sport Movement to further explore the impact and potential of esports as part of the roadmap.
Articles in this issue
Now we turn our attention to the articles that you will find in this issue.
As you will see from the Table of contents of this issue, we include a wide range of sports law and sports tax articles, which will engage our readers attention and provide them with much “food for thought”.
We would highlight, in particular, the articles on sports image rights and the changing landscape in relation to Blockchain technology and NFTs by Athena Constantinou and Achilleas Zapounis and how NFTs contribute to the digital assets of artists and athletes by Denis Doeland.
As always, we would welcome and value your contributions in the form of articles and topical case notes and commentaries for our journal and also for posting on the SLT dedicated website www.sportslawandtaxation.com.
So, now read on and enjoy the March 2022 edition of SLT.
Dr. Rijkele Betten (Managing Editor)
Prof. Dr. Ian S. Blackshaw (Consulting Editor)