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June 2021

How much does it cost to buy a trophy these days?

By Tony Attwood

Each year I tell myself that I am not going to do another analysis of how much the top clubs in the PL spent on transfers and what they have got out of it – mostly because it seems to prove the same thing each year.

And then something comes along and makes me think, well, just once more.

This year that “one thing” was an analysis in a blog that was written after the AGM which suggested that Ivan Gazidis’ statement that Arsenal was very effective in the transfer market on a pound for pound basis was totally false and in fact Arsenal were the least effective of all PL clubs in terms of their transfer buying policy.

So once more I was drawn into it.  But as before I thought I would try a different analysis this year.  After all, the previous analyses are available still, so no need to re-run them.

And the point is that thus far each one of these slightly different analyses has come up with the same answers, no matter how the figures are based, but I have now tried another slightly different approach just to see if I can find a different result.

This time around I have only taken money spent in the summer, and only included money spent – it is not offset against money received for players.

Four columns below listed by year therefore show the total spent in millions of pounds across four summers, with those four totalled in the next column.

The position column simply puts these six selected clubs into a position in terms of expenditure – so across these four summers we can see that Manchester City spent the most, Tottenham the least.

After that I looked at what they had won in the summer of 2015, 2016 and 2017.  I’ve chosen those three years as obviously the purchases in the summer of 2014 could not have any effect until the trophies were won in 2015.

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In the final column I am counting all the trophies as equal and worked out a cost per trophy.

Club 2017 2016 2015 2014 Total Pos Trophies 2015-17  £ per trophy
£m £m £m £m £m
Man City 221 174 153 65  613 1  1 Lg Cup £613m
Chelsea 187 122 66 92  467 3  2 PL, 1 Lg Cup £155m
Man U 150 149 108 86  493 2  1 FAC, 1 Lg Cup, 1 Europa £164m
Tottenham 85 70 49 27  231 6
Liverpool 82 70 78 113  343 4
Arsenal 52 96 10 77  235 5  2 FAC £117.5m

On this basis Arsenal have done the best business, with each trophy costing £117m. Man City have done the worst business of the four clubs that have won anything, with each trophy costing £613m.

Although of course one could also say that Liverpool and Tottenham have spent £231m and £343m respectively and not won anything, which isn’t very good.

At this point the argument was put as to whether the summer of 2017 should be included because no benefit has been seen yet from the purchases of last summer.  The counter argument is that once you have started spending on this scale, you just keep doing it, so that expenditure will have to go on year by year and that is part of the cost.

But that is a bit of a philosophical point rather than an economic point so the table was then reconstructed without the 2017 summer expenditure.

Club 2016 2015 2014 Total Pos Trophies 2015-17  £ per trophy
£m £m £m £m
Man City 174 153 65  392 1  1 Lg Cup £392m
Chelsea 122 66 92  280 3  2 PL, 1 Lg Cup £93m
Man U 149 108 86  343 2  1 FAC, 1 Lg Cup, 1 Europa £114m
Tottenham 70 49 27  146 6
Liverpool 70 78 113  261 4
Arsenal 96 10 77  183 5  2 FAC £91m

On this basis there is no difference to the order of the clubs in terms of expenditure, which makes the point that is fairly obvious, that clubs continue year on year to spend within their position in terms of these six clubs.  And one can see that simply in terms of counting silverware against players Arsenal are still ahead of Chelsea.  But if you consider the PL to be worth much more than the FA Cup, then Chelsea are ahead.

It does however make the point that for Man City £382m seems an awful lot of money to buy a League Cup.

But there is another, and I think much more important point here.  That is the issue of the cumulative gap in terms of expenditure is getting bigger all the time, because the clubs that spent the most over one period of time are continuing to spend the most year on year.

What’s more the cost of a trophy on average now becomes apparent.  The four clubs that have won trophies in the period measure (so excluding Liverpool and Tottenham) spent £1198m (ie over one billion pounds) on transfers in, through the three summers in the second table and won nine trophies between them.   The average cost per trophy was £133m.

However three of the teams that won trophies in this period spent less per trophy than the average.  What put the price up was the profligacy of Manchester City.   But to answer our question in the headline, it costs on average £133m to buy a trophy.  Both Tottenham and Liverpool spent more than this across the three year period in the second table, but didn’t win anything.  That seems a bit careless.

And what of the future?

Quite clearly, Manchester City have all the money they can spend, and then some, plus the burgeoning benefit of being in the ever growing City group of clubs worldwide which will bring them advantageous purchases in the future.  Not advantageous on price – because Fifa insists the deals have to be at market prices, and City group don’t really care which club has which player – but advantageous in choosing to sell player X to one of the City group clubs and not a club outside of their group.

At present the City group includes Manchester City, New York City, Melbourne City, Yokohama F Marinos, Club Atlético Torque and Girona.  City group have been linked of late with  AS Saint-Étienne, Estoril and Boavista as future purchases.

So on these analyses Arsenal are being as efficient or perhaps somewhat more efficient that most of the other clubs in the “top 6”.

But I can’t see any chance of Arsenal under the present ownership upping their expenditure by another £50m a season or so in order to catch up Chelsea.  It could happen, of course, but catching up Manchester City with their resources and their worldwide network of clubs seems impossible.  And anyway if we did try and catch up Chelsea, they’d only spend more.

So as long as this type of investment is allowed by the footballing authorities, it will continue.  The one comfort is that, as Manchester City show us much of the time, it doesn’t always work and their profligacy is helping a lot of other clubs keep going.

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13 comments to How much does it cost to buy a trophy these days?

  • Mike T

    First off I am not sure where you have used as your source information for it is apparent there are inaccuracies. For instance in 2015/16 season you said that Arsenal’s spend was £10 million which I believe was the fee paid for Cech whereas it’s widely reported the spend for that season was £15 million Arsenal also having signed Elneny for £5 million in that season.
    Irrespective I find it extremely interesting or perhaps very conviently to your arguement to ignore fees received. For years the argument always being put forward by posters on this site that nett was the relevant sum
    If indeed you take net over that last 3 seasons then you have.
    City on £298 million, 1 trophy £298
    Utd on £234 million, 3 trophies £78 million
    Arsenal £164 million, 2 trophies £82 million
    Liverpool £66 million , Nil
    Chelsea on £65 million 3 trophies £21.3 million
    Spurs on £19 million
    Ok I know the sums transfer by transfer are often incorrect but doesn’t half tell a different story

  • Preetam

    Mike T ~ idiot he has already told earlier in the article that he is using a different approach this time since all the earlier calculations showed the same result.

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    I will rather say Arsenal incoming and outgoing transfer policy during the last summer tranfer window was effective but not very effective as we would have wanted it to be.

    On the incoming transfers side, the signing by Arsensl of the Olympique Lyonnais striker – Alexandre Lacazette to complement Olivier Giroud efforts in leading the line for Arsenal looked to be a good signing. And the free transfer of Sead Kolasinac from Schalke 04 to Arsenal which has been hailed the bargsin deal of the last summer window was obviously a good signing by Arsenal.

    But that’s all on the incoming transfers front as Arsenal who were beclouded with the likely outgoing transfer of Alexis Sanchez to Man City which failed to materialized did not sign a 3rd top quality player probably a mid-fileder as envisaged after having sold 4 top quality Gunners of: Szcezney, Gabriel, Chamberlain and Kieran Gibbs to recoup. And also loaned out a host of some senior Gunners to reduce their oversized senior squad to the correct manageable squad size.

  • Jax

    You’re not putting a value on a particular trophy and lumping them all together. I would suggest that it would be ten times the value to win the Champions League than the FA Cup, five times the Premier League & seven times the Europa League. God knows what the relative values of CL & League Cups are. My point being that you need to spend a nation’s fortune (and often do) to win the very top prize.
    7amkickoff are doing a similar spend v trophy haul today. Coincidence or what?

  • Mike T


    Not quite sure the idiot tag is necessary

    I would suggest that you read my comment again. I am well aware as to what Tony is saying and indeed how he has chosen to anyaise the figures and indeed his comment regarding spend only being factored in. The simple fact is if you look at net spend over the same time lines as Tony has chosen to factor in the results change

  • Samuel Akinsola Adebosin

    It has become very costly to buy a competitive trophy in this modern football era unlike when it was cheap to buy it in the old era.

    To even win the Carabao throphy that is supposedly the least in status of the 3 domestic trophies in England which is regularly on offer for win every season is not easy but hard to win. A club needs to be very strong in players talent and quality as the club must first invest heavily on players recruitment befote it may win it. But even then, trying to buy a trophy through the signings of players at the transfer market does not guaranteed a trophy win but it could help towards winning it.

    I think Arsenal who are 3 wins away from lifting the Carabao Cup this season will eventually win the trophy because they have bought their ways through to win it this season by their signings of Lacazette & Kolasinac and by their keeping Sanchez and Ozil from exiting the club last summer who are like 2 new signings by the club will among other senior Gunners at the club feature for the Arsenal when they clash with West Hammers at the Emirates Stadium to edge them out of the competition in a month’s time to qualify for the semi-final of the competition taking place at Wembley where Arsenal have form the habits of winning games in recent.seasons

    I think the Key for Arsenal to unlock the locked Carabao Cup application win this season after making many futile attempts in past 2 decades to unlock the app win is to beat West Hammers at the Emirates Stadium to knock them out of the competition. I don’t expect the match to be an easy game for Arsenal to win. But in as much as it won’t be an easy game for Arsenal to win because the desperate Slaven Bilic’s West Ham team who have not won any trophy for only God knows when last they did will make the match difficult for Arsenal to win, but Arsenal themseves will make the match difficult for West Ham to taste any measure of success in the match as the Gunners will force the Irons out of the Ems by collecting all the hammers in their hands and hammer the hammers them out of the competition.

  • insideright

    Surely the total cost of buying a trophy should include salaries to players? The last time I looked Arsenal paid out less than four other clubs and therefore their record looks even stronger.
    I’m sure Gazidis implies that Arsenal include all such expenditure (including agents fees) in their calculations. The fact that half of Pogba’s fee went the agent makes such an inclusion vital if fair comparison is to be made.

  • Mike T

    Indersight you are right all sums need to be included although even that complicates things.
    For instance the likes of Arsenal pay a bigger player bonus for CL qualification than they do for winning the FA cup so for instance had Arsenal still won the FA cup and finished 4th their wage bill would if the reports are correct been anything between £10 and £20 million.
    Also not all clubs operate in the same way . Some of the functions are in house at one club but outsourced at another.
    For instance Arsenal own and maintain the stadium and staff employed by the football club and their wages are reflected in the overall wage bill whereas say at West Ham they don’t have the same obligations as thy pay rent which as I understand it includes the services of stewards and ground staff

  • goonersince72

    Having read Tony’s article and the comments so far, a few things become apparent:
    1. It costs obscene money to win trophies
    2. AFC will never spend the amounts required to win the League or UCL (they were not exactly wastrels before Kroenke)
    3. Perhaps they’ll steal one like Leicester
    4. The PGMO will work against that eventuality, witness the pk’s L.C. received that season
    5. AFC will continue to play

  • goonersince72

    beautiful football

  • Gord

    OT: Corruption News

    A second conviction in the USA.

    > Costas Takkas, former general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Federation,

    Has been sentenced to 15 months in jail. As he has been in jail the last 12 or so months, it means he will be released in a fe wmonths.

    No mention of PGMO, or The (sweet) FA in the article.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I would love to know the cost incurred after winning a trophy . I am of course referring to Leeds United , Portsmouth and Wigan in particular. Can include Leicester in that grouping , but it seems they may be paying it forward for quite sometime unless of course ,Puel stops the rot.