Thursday 27 October 2016

Business brisk as the transfer window opens

Watford’s Troy Deeney. Photo: PA Wire
Watford’s Troy Deeney. Photo: PA Wire

English soccer fans used to spend the summer ticking off the hours until the first day of the season in August but now the action has really kicked off as the transfer window officially opened yesterday.

Significantly, smaller Premier League clubs were at the centre of much of the first-day trading, reflecting the early release of funds from the new television deal which will send £8billion into the league over a three-year period.

That is more than £3bn up on the previous agreement which ran out at the end of last season. New revenue normally starts to be handed over in August but smaller clubs successfully lobbied the league for a change to ease cash flow problems and allow them to compete earlier in the market.

"Normal payments have been brought forward, particularly to assist promoted clubs," a Premier League spokesman said. "Those payments reflect the new deal that has been negotiated."

Next season the team finishing bottom of the Premier League is guaranteed £100m even before a ticket is sold or sponsorship deal struck. That sum will give confidence and financial muscle to the league's smaller clubs and the first signs of that came yesterday when Crystal Palace paid Newcastle United £13m for Andros Townsend, sent Dwight Gayle in the opposite direction for £10m and signed French goalkeeper Steve Mandanda from Marseille.

Watford paid Gent £8.3m pounds for Christian Kabasele, a 25-year-old former Belgian defender who is with his country's squad at Euro 2016. Watford were also heavily linked with an imminent £10m move for Granada striker Isaac Success.

Potentially even more significant was Watford's announcement that leading striker Troy Deeney had signed an improved five-year contract despite interest from Premier League champions Leicester City.

Deeney was touted as a possible replacement for Leicester's Jamie Vardy, who was the subject of a bid from Arsenal, but both players have decided to stay put.

That represents another knock-on effect of the new deal because the smaller Premier League sides are better placed to spurn offers from richer clubs and hang on to their best players.

That will not stop the spending, of course, but merely push up the figures. Last season Premier League clubs spent just over £1bn on new players, according to sports business analysis at Deloitte.

This season, the figure is likely to be even higher, and a league that is already seen as the hardest-fought in Europe could be even more competitive as a result.

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