Premier League clubs spent a record-breaking £815m in the January 2023 transfer window, according to analysis from Deloitte’s Sports Business Group. Gross transfer expenditure was almost triple Premier League clubs’ spending in January 2022.
Following the record-breaking 2022 summer transfer window (£1.9bn), Premier League clubs have spent a total of £2.8bn overall on player transfers during the 2022/23 season, overtaking the previous record of £1.9bn set in the 2017/18 window by 47%.
Tim Bridge, lead partner in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, said: “The record spending by Premier League clubs this season is beyond anything that we've seen before. It is a clear indication of talent acquisition being core to Premier League clubs’ business strategies. In securing the best available talent, clubs hope to improve results on the field, which in turn will enhance the appeal of the Premier League and further cement its position at the very top of world football.
“Premier League clubs have outspent those within the rest of Europe’s ‘big five’ leagues by almost four to one in this transfer window, allowing them to hold on to their key players, while attracting top-talent from overseas.
“However, while there is a clear need to invest in squad size and quality to retain a competitive edge, there will always be a fine balance to strike between prioritising success on-pitch and maintaining financial sustainability.”
Premier League spending power
Over 85% of gross Premier League clubs’ spending was directed towards acquiring players playing outside the UK in the 2023 winter transfer window - the highest ever share of transfer expenditure flowing outside of the Premier League.* By contrast, £25m was spent on acquiring players from the Football League, up from just £1m in January 2022, but just 3% of total gross spending.
Bridge continued: “The decline in spending across the English football system is likely to be of growing concern for members of the English Football League and could further fuel the debate around distributing finances more evenly across the pyramid. Transfer income from Premier League clubs, which has historically been an important source of club funding, now appears to be less guaranteed, with Premier League clubs choosing to prioritise talent from abroad.”
Within the Premier League, five of the top six revenue-generating clubs (Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, and Arsenal) accounted for 54% of Premier League club gross spend, with Chelsea accounting for 37% of the league’s total spend while also breaking the British transfer record. In January 2023, Chelsea spent more on gross transfer expenditure than the combined total of all clubs in the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1, and more than the cumulative spend of Premier League clubs in each of the previous January windows, excluding 2018 (£430m).
AFC Bournemouth, currently 18th in the table, are the second largest spenders within the Premier League. The five clubs currently at the bottom of the Premier League (West Ham, Wolverhampton, AFC Bournemouth, Everton, Southampton) spent c.£175m, compared to the bottom five clubs in January 2022 (£150m). There are three Premier League clubs (Manchester United, Brentford, and Everton) who did not spend funds on acquiring players in the January 2023 window. Additionally, three Premier League clubs; Leeds, Chelsea and Southampton, broke their transfer records this window.
European transfer market
Across the rest of the ‘big five’ European Leagues there was a cumulative gross spend of €255m and net receipts of €120m. This represents a year-on-year fall of 35% in gross spend compared to January 2022 (€395m).
Serie A reported the steepest year-on-year decline in gross transfer spend, falling 84% from €185m in January 2022 to €30m in January 2023, the lowest spend by the league since 2006, followed by La Liga (63%, €80m to €30m).
During the 2023 window, Premier League clubs reported a net transfer expenditure of €820m. Bundesliga also reported a net transfer expenditure of €5m, however the rest of the big five leagues reported net transfer receipts in this window as clubs looked to sell players before adding permanent or loanee signings (Ligue 1 – net receipts of €75m; Serie A – net receipts of €35m; La Liga – net receipts of €15m).
Calum Ross, assistant director in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, commented: “Across Europe, many clubs have sold some of their most valuable talent to other leagues, particularly the Premier League, as they look to prioritise financial sustainability and likely have targeted the development of players that will appeal to the English market.
“The rest of the big five leagues in Europe have had more subdued spending power, likely impacted by negative growth in their broadcast rights in the most recent cycle, while at the same time, some European clubs are still recovering post-pandemic. In the future, the ability of such clubs to invest large sums in on-field talent will continue to be driven by funds generated across commercial, matchday and broadcast revenues, in addition to receipts from the sale of players.”
Basis of preparation
Deloitte has collated and analysed clubs' player transfer fees for each transfer window since January 2003. The information on player transfers is based on publicly available information in respect of player registration acquisitions by clubs, including from www.bbc.co.uk and www.premierleague.com, and further analysis carried out by the Sports Business Group at Deloitte. The information is based on reported transfers as at 02:00 GMT on 1 February 2023. Further commentary about the transfer market is included in the Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance. The figures contained in this release will not necessarily be the same as the cost of acquiring players’ registrations as recognised in the financial statements of each club.
Under accounting requirements, the cost of acquiring a player’s registration includes the transfer fee payable (including any probable contingent amounts), plus other direct costs such as transfer fee levy and fees to agents. The exchange rate on 31 January 2023 has been used to convert figures between euros and pound sterling (£1=€1.13).
About the Sports Business Group at Deloitte
Deloitte is a leading advisor to the sports business market.
We equip our clients with knowledge and insight that will resolve challenges, grasp opportunities and deliver transformational change.
Drawing on Deloitte's global network of expertise and capabilities, we work with some of the world’s largest sports organisations, governments and investors.
Our global sport capability hubs lead industry innovation in areas such as: data and analytics; digital services; major event capabilities; sports and transformation advisory, M&A advisory and transaction support; cyber security, risk management and ESG; tax and legal.
Find out more here.
Sports Law & Taxation features: articles; comparative surveys; commentaries on topical sports legal and tax issues and documentation.
The unique feature of Sports Law & Taxation is that this Journal combines up-to-date valuable and must-have information on the legal and tax aspects of sport and their interrelationships.
Global Sports Law and Taxation Reports feature: articles; comparative surveys; commentaries on topical sports legal and tax issues and documentation.
The unique feature of Global Sports Law and Taxation Reports is that this Journal combines for the first time up to-date valuable and must-have information on the legal and tax aspects of sport and their interrelationships.
The editors of the Journal Sports Law & Taxation are Professor Ian Blackshaw and Dr Rijkele Betten, with specialist contributions from the world's leading practitioners and academics in the sports law and taxation fields.
Dr. Rijkele Betten
Prof. Dr. Ian S. Blackshaw
Prof. Guglielmo Maisto
Maisto e Associati, Milano
Mr. Kevin Offer
Hardwick & Morris LLP, London
St. Jorisstraat 11
5211 HA 's-Hertogenosch