Football’s current economic model is worrisome

Photo by: Simon Reza on Unsplash

European football market value continues to rise to ridiculous heights.

The January 2023 transfer window wasn’t the most glamorous in terms of big-name transfers, but it was one of the highest-spending winter windows – here are some of the reasons why.

It seems as if the expected value for a young prospect player is in the region of 100 million euros, while the new norm for average or seasoned players is in the region of 30 to 50 million euros. This is unnecessarily high and has turned football into more of a business than a sport, which leads some transfers to take a marketing approach to attract sponsors and viewers rather than the player fitting the team style.

Player price inflation has been so consistent that there is practically a record transfer price on almost every transfer window. The English Premier League is at the root of it all and has been labelled as the league that has been ruining the market value.

The Premier League alone spent just under 1 billion euros this January transfer window. In comparison, every year between 2014 and 2022, premier league clubs spent around 150 million euros except for 2018, which is the second highest spending in the January window with just over 400 million euros. Putting it further into perspective, this year, the Premier League spent almost four times more than Ligue 1, Bundesliga, La Liga, and Serie A combined. 

La Liga’s president Javier Tebas, who has previously spoken out on the economic concerns of European football and its changing model, recently criticized the Premier League’s spending this past transfer window.

“It is quite dangerous that the markets are doped, inflated, as has been happening in recent years in Europe because that can jeopardize the sustainability of European football,” said Tebas.

While this statement could come from a hint of jealousy of foreign investors putting their sights on the Premier League and not La Liga, his previously voiced concerns about the proposed super league may show that he cares about the game and is genuinely shining a light on the dangers of the current economic model of football.

“The European Union has already stated that it wants to maintain the current model in Europe, although some nuances may change. An organization will not be created in the hands of the richest,” said Tebas, when the super league idea fell through.

This year’s increase mainly comes from Chelsea’s new ownership led by Todd Boehly, who spent approximately 323 million euros this January. The biggest incoming names are Mykhailo Mudryk joining from Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk for a deal worth 98.5 million euros. The record-breaking deal that made Enzo Fernandez the highest-priced player in the premier league joining from Portuguese side Benfica for 118.9 million euros. And Joao Felix joining from Atletico Madrid on a loan deal worth around 11 million euros plus wages, this may seem considerably lower than the other two, but Felix’s loan is only for six months which makes it a hefty price.

Additionally, recent world cup winner Enzo Fernandez cost Benfica only 14 million euros in July 2022; his rapid price increase may be due to him being awarded best young player at the tournament a few months ago. But this raises the question: does this really justify a record-breaking amount?

Very few of these breaking record transfers actually pay off, most of these see the player not performing as well as was expected, which makes sense with the amount of pressure that is put on them based on their price tag.

Ultimately, football should move away from a business model, it’s hurting the players and it’s hurting the game. Football should be about the passion and love for the game, some clubs seem to only care about the business side of things. Foreign investors keep joining the race which makes for glamorous transfers, but it also leaves the leagues greatly unbalanced as not all teams have the same money to spend.

This narrows down the competition to the richest teams and leaves football feeling like a game of money rather than of tactical skill.

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