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Premier League's January spending spree obliterates previous records

Chelsea FC / Getty

London, Feb 1, 2023 (AFP) - Premier League clubs spent a record £815 million ($1 billion) in a frantic January transfer window -- nearly double the previous highest figure, according to sports finance experts Deloitte.

Deals came thick and fast in the final hours of the window on Tuesday, with big-spending Chelsea setting a new British record in signing Argentina's World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez from Benfica for 121 million euros ($132 million, £106.8 million).

The gross spend was 90 percent higher than the previous record (£430 million in 2018) and almost triple the previous January window.

Clubs from the English top flight also set a record for net transfer expenditure during a January window of £720 million.

Combined with the record £1.9 billion spend during the summer transfer window, Premier League clubs have splurged £2.8 billion during the 2022/23 season, a new all-time high.

Deadline-day expenditure by Premier League clubs of £275 million is also a new record for January, obliterating the previous mark.

Five of the top six revenue-generating clubs accounted for more than half of the total gross spend, with Chelsea responsible for more than a third of the total league expenditure.

The Premier League's huge spending is backed by record revenues for broadcasting rights for the 2022-2025 cycle.

For the first time international TV rights sales outstripped the figure for the UK domestic market, taking the total to more than £10 billion over three years.

Premier League clubs blew their European rivals out of the water, accounting for 79 percent of total spending across Europe's major football leagues in January -- the highest proportion ever reported.

Transfer spending fell across the rest of Europe's "big five" leagues from 396 million euros in the January 2022 window to 255 million euros.

The president of Spain's La Liga, Javier Tebas, accused the majority of Premier League clubs of "economic doping".

He tweeted: "We read about the strength of the Premier League but it is not like that. It is a competition built on clubs making multi-million losses."

Race for talent

Tim Bridge, lead partner in Deloitte's Sports Business Group, said Premier League spending was "beyond anything that we've seen before".

"It is a clear indication of talent acquisition being core to Premier League clubs' business strategies," he said.

"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."

But Bridge warned there was a fine balance between prioritising success on the pitch and maintaining financial sustainability and also highlighted the lack of domestic business.

More than 85 percent of Premier League clubs' gross spending was directed towards acquiring players playing outside the UK.

Bridge said the decline would be of concern to lower-tier clubs in England and could further fuel the debate around a more even distribution of finances.

Calum Ross, assistant director in the Sports Business Group, said many clubs across Europe had sold valuable talent as they sought to prioritise financial stability.

"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," he said.

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