If you think that Financial Fair Play has had no effect, take a look at the summer transfers. Not the total amount spent, but the net spend. The money spent on transfers less the money brought in from sales.
Now “What might have happened” is always by definition a hypothetical argument, but even so it is worth considering with a view to what might happen in the future.
In my view had we had no Uefa FFP and no forthcoming Premier League FFP then Chelsea and Man City would have spent quadruple what they spent this summer. Not because they needed all the players, but simply to stop the clubs not funded by oil and gas wealth from buying these players.
More players would have been bought, and then they and others surplus to requirements would have been loaned out to clubs outside the Premier League. Now they have been reigned back.
Here is the net spend table with the players bought in each case. Data provided by the Guardian.
1: Manchester United, net spend £122m
Luke Shaw (Southampton, £27m), Ander Herrera (Athletic Bilbao, £29m), Vanja Milinkovic (FK Vojvodina), Ángel Di María (Real Madrid, £60m), Marcos Rojo (Sporting Lisbom, £16m), Daley Blind (Ajax, £14m), Radamel Falcao (Monaco, loan)
2: Arsenal, net spend £46m
Alexis Sánchez (Barcelona, £30m), Calum Chambers (Southampton, £16m), Mathieu Debuchy (Newcastle, £12m), David Ospina (Nice, £3m), Danny Welbeck (Manchester United, £16m)
3: Liverpool, net spend £36m
Adam Lallana (Southampton, £25m), Lazar Markovic (Benfica, £20m), Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen, £9.8m), Rickie Lambert (Southampton, £4m), Mario Balotelli (Milan, £16m), Divock Origi (Lille, £10m), Alberto Moreno (Sevilla, £12m), Dejan Lovren (Southampton, £20m), Javier Manquillo (Atlético Madrid, loan)
4: Manchester City, net spend £32m
Fernando (Porto, £12m), Bacary Sagna (Arsenal), Willy Caballero (Malaga, £6m), Eliaquim Mangala (Porto, £32m), Fernando (Porto, £12m), Bruno Zuculini (Racing Club, £3m), Frank Lampard (New York City, loan)
5: Everton, net spend £33m
Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Romelu Lukaku (Chelsea, £28m), Samuel Eto’o (Chelsea), Brendan Galloway (MK Dons), Muhamed Besic (Ferencvaros)
6: Southampton, profit £31m
Dusan Tadic (Twente, £10.3m), Graziano Pelle (Feyenoord, £9m), Fraser Forster (Celtic, £10m), Graziano Pellè (Feyenoord, £8m), Shane Long (Hull City, £12m), Florin Gardos (Steaua Bucharest, £4m), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea, loan), Saphir Taider (Internazionale, loan), Toby Alderweireld (Atlético Madrid, loan), Sadio Mané (Red Bull Salzburg)
7: West Ham United, net spend £31m
Cheikhou Kouyaté (Anderlecht, £7m), Mauro Zárate (Velez Sarsfield), Aaron Cresswell (Ipswich, £4m), Diego Poyet (Charlton), Enner Valencia (Pachuca, £12m), Joe Cole (Aston Villa), Alex Song (Barcelona, loan), Carl Jenkinson (Arsenal, loan), Diafra Sakho (Metz), Morgan Amalfitano (Marseille)
8: Hull City, net spend £25m
Robert Snodgrass (Norwich, £7m), Jake Livermore (Tottenham, £6m), Tom Ince (Blackpool), Andrew Robinson (Dundee United, £3m), Harry Maguire (Sheffield United, £2.5m), Michael Dawson (Tottenham), Jake Livermore (Tottenham, £8m), Karim Rossi (Stoke), Andrew Robertson (Dundee United, £2.85m), Abel Hernández (Palermo, £10m), Brian Lenihan (Cork City), Mohamed Diamé (West Ham), Gastón Ramírez (Southampton, loan), Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle, loan)
9: Newcastle United, net spend £25m
Emmanuel Rivière (Monaco), Remy Cabella (Montpellier, £12m), Siem de Jong (Ajax, £6m), Ayoze Pérez (Tenerife, £1.5m), Jack Colback (Sunderland), Daryl Janmaat (Feyenoord, £5m), Karl Darlow (Nottingham Forest), Facundo Ferreyra (Shakhtar Donetsk, loan)
10: Queens Park Rangers, net spend £21m
Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), Steven Caulker (Cardiff City, £8m), Jordan Mutch (Cardiff City, £6m), Mauricio Isla (Juventus), Leroy Fer (Norwich City, £8m), Jack Robinson (Liverpool), Alex McCarthy (Reading), Mauricio Isla (Juventus, loan), Eduardo Vargas (Napoli, loan), Danny Simpson (Leicester), Sandro (Tottenham), Niko Kranjcar (Dynamo Kiev, loan)
11: West Bromwich Albion, net spend £13m
Craig Gardner (Sunderland), Joleon Lescott (Manchester City), Chris Baird (Burnley), Sebastien Pocognoli (Hannover 96), Georgios Samaras (Celtic), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev, £10m), Christian Gamboa (Rosenborg, £4m), Andre Wisdom (Liverpool, loan), Sebastián Blanco (Metalist Kharkiv), Jason Davidson (Heracles Almelo), Cristian Gamboa (Rosenborg), Silvestre Varela (Porto, loan)
12: Crystal Palace, net spent £11m
Chris Kettings (Blackpool), Fraizer Campbell (Cardiff City, £0.9m), Brede Hangeland (Fulham), Martin Kelly (Liverpool), Wilfried Zaha (Manchester United, loan), Zeki Fryers (Tottenham, £3m), James McArthur (Wigan, £5.5m), Kevin Doyle (Wolves, loan)
13: Chelsea, net spend £10m
Cesc Fábregas (Barcelona, £30m), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid, £32m), Mario Pasalic (Hadjuk Split), Filipe Luís (£20m), Didier Drogba (Galatasaray), Loïc Rémy (QPR, £10.5m)
14: Leicester City, net spend £10m
Leonardo Ulloa (Brighton, £8m), Esteban Cambiasso (Internazionale), Matthew Upson (Brighton), Marc Albrighton (Aston Villa), Ben Hamer (Charlton), Jack Barmby (Manchester United), Leonardo Ulloa (Brighton), Danny Simpson (QPR)
15: Sunderland, net spend £10m
Billy Jones (West Brom), Jordi Gomez (Wigan), Costel Pantilimon (Manchester City), Patrick van Aarnholt (Chelsea), Jack Rodwell (Manchester City, £10m), Santiago Vergini (Estudiantes, loan), Will Buckley (Brighton), Sebastián Coates (Liverpool, loan), Ricky Álvarez (Internazionale, loan)
16: Burnley, net spend £8m
Lukas Jutkiewicz (Middlesbrough, £1.5m), Michael Kightly (Stoke), Marvin Sordell (Bolton), Matt Gilks (Blackpool), Matt Taylor (West Ham), Steven Reid (West Brom), Stephen Ward (Wolves), George Boyd (Hull),
17: Aston Villa, net spend £6m
Carlos Sanchez (Elche, £4.7m), Philippe Senderos (Valencia), Joe Cole (West Ham), Tom Leggett (Southampton), Isaac Nehemie (Southampton), Kieran Richardson (Fulham), Aly Cissokho (Valencia), Carlos Sánchez (Elche, £4.7m)
18: Tottenham Hotspur, profit £6m
Eric Dier (Sporting Lisbon, £4m), Federico Fazio (Sevilla, £8m), Ben Davies (Swansea, £10m), Michael Vorm (Swansea, £5m), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders), Federico Fazio (Sevilla), Benjamin Stambouli (Montpellier)
19: Swansea City, net spend £1.5m
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Tottenham), Jefferson Montero (Morelia, £4m) Marvin Emnes (Middlesbrough, £1.5m), Bafetimbi Gomis (Lyon), Lukasz Fabianski (Arsenal), Stephen Kingsley (Falkirk), Jefferson Montero (Morelia), Giancarlo Gallifuoco, Federico Fernández (Napoli), Modou Barrow (Ostersunds)
20: Stoke City, net spend £0.5m
Mame Biram Diouf (Hannover), Dionatan Teixeira (Banska Bystrica), Phil Bardsley (Sunderland), Steve Sidwell (Fulham), Bojan Krkic (Barcelona, £3m), Victor Moses (Chelsea, loan), Oussama Assaidi (Liverpool, loan)
Now this brings up some interesting points:
Man U’s position at the top is to be expected. They have lots of spare profit to spend, as long as the owners allow it, and they have no FFP problems.
Arsenal likewise have the money, and no FFP difficulties, so can spend. But third in the list, Liverpool, is more of a puzzle. Maybe I have been getting it wrong all this time, but when they come to be inspected at the end of the year for FFP (not having had to last year, as they were not in Europe) I can’t see how they are going to get away with it.
Unless… they have a scheme like Man City’s infamous accounting scam – which of course failed. The only one I can think of is that the money theoretically used to build the new stadium (which was never built) is to be counted as non-allowable expenditure. It is certainly not how FFP was intended to be, but they might trick their way around the rules with it. Certainly the net spend of £36m for a club already on the edge of FFP failure is a risk – not least considering that it is not just the transfer money but also the salaries that are of interest to the inspectors.
Man City, although reigned back after their chastening experience with Uefa, and the huge embarrassment of not only being found guilty of breaking the rules, but also the long pause in which (unlike PSG et al) they refused to accept the fact that they were guilty, are still playing the high game. £32m plus wages when you failed FFP last time and were found out, is a big risk.
Everton’s strategy is clear: stabalise in fifth, and with local authority funding get a new stadium, and then sell the club to the Middle East. So £33m spend was expected. But, Everton have not made a profit for years (since selling Rooney in fact), and the allowable net losses get lower each year. This strategy can’t be repeated – and I am not sure they are going to get through the Premier League’s own FFP.
Southampton’s net spend of £31m took me by surprise when I saw it because they seemed to lose half a team at the start, but they restructured the squad and they probably have no worries about the Premier League FFP.
The spending by WHU however looks bizarre. The club can’t possibly sustain this sort of thing on the crowds it gets, and clearly everything is being banked on the fact that crowd figures will rise dramatically when they go to the state funded Olympic Stadium. If they don’t, WHU are going to be in trouble with the Premier League, and in trouble with their bankers. (They really ought to be in trouble with the EU for state assistance of a commercial enterprise, but it looks like the EU has decided to fight the Real Madrid land swap deal first, and then come back to look at WHU).
Hull in 8th, spent £25m more than they received in transfers – which is huge, but it didn’t get them beyond the Preliminaries of the Uefa League. But their aim is to stabilise mid-table, which under Steve Bruce, they might well do, while Newcastle have endless dreams of returning to the top table. But sadly for them £25m is not going to do it.
Whether a £21m net spend for QPR will work is a moot point, because they are certain to be crucified by the Championship later this year for the way they bought themselves out of the League last season in breach of that league’s rules. The chances are the Premier League will look on from outside as the battle rages, and QPR will take the Championship to court. The real fun will begin if QPR go down again, and if the Championship refuses to accept them unless they pay the fine – which they say they won’t do.
After QPR the numbers drop quite a bit and it is noticeable just how proudent Chelsea have been. Their problem is that although they could do it this season by selling players clearly unwanted at the club, and getting one sale through at a bizarre price (with PSG not the slightest bit interested in FFP), it is hard to imagine they can do it again next year.
But we must finally spare a thought for Tottenham in 18th with a net spend of £6m. With all around spending so much more, it is quite a gamble. Maybe it will indeed work for them. We shall see.
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