I t didn’t take long after the transfer window opened for the effects of the mammoth new Premier League TV deal to be felt but passing the £1billion mark was still a surprise to many. Last summer’s total expenditure of £814m by top flight clubs was eclipsed with ease, which just feels absolutely ridiculous. It appears that we now live in a world where even Crystal Palace, who don’t forget were a Championship side in 2013, can afford to splash £30m on one player.
And let’s not forget the Eagles also signed James Tomkins, arguably our fourth choice centre back, for £10m. The increased spend is driven, fundamentally, by the increased TV revenue, but there are other factors that have pushed up prices. Firstly, teams outside the Premier League have placed a premium on players wanted by English clubs.
Another factor is that English clubs now have financial security, and they no longer need to sell players to balance the books. Faced with rejection, other teams increase their bids. It’s a classic shortage of supply and excess of demand situation. There’s a scene in the movie Goodfellas that makes a convincing visual representation of this summer’s Premier League transfer window.
It’s the one after the mob’s successful Lufthansa heist, when Robert De Niro reminds his fellow hoodlums to spend prudently to avoid attracting attention to how filthy rich they’ve become. At their next bar room meeting, one by one the collaborators turn up with their sports cars, gold watches and fur coats, De Niro increasingly exasperated. ‘Are you all stupid? Didn’t I tell you to be careful?’
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore would be an unlikely casting in a reprisal of De Niro’s ‘Jimmy the Gent’ role in the Scorsese classic, but he might relate to the sentiments as he witnesses the excess following the £5billion TV deal. You can imagine the Premier League chairmen turning up for their next gathering only to be met by Scudamore shaking his head in incredulity as he learns Jordon Ibe was signed for £15 million.
‘What are you all doing? Didn’t I tell you bidding £30million for an unwanted reserve striker would get noticed?’ The incessant demand to spend, spend, spend is ensuring it wouldn’t matter if the next broadcast deal yielded £50 billion, we’ll eventually end up with fourthchoice strikers rated at £100million.
Beyond unlikely self-imposed wage or transfer caps, there is no obvious solution to ending this ceaseless cycle of profligacy. In the Scorsese movie, ‘Jimmy the Gent’ came to realise that too much cash in the hands of the untrustworthy and irresponsible led to catastrophe. Scudamore must’ve felt the same every time he read another player had been signed for in excess of £30million.