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How did COVID-19 affect the Premier League transfer window?

By Joshua Hardy

In March 2020, football came to a standstill. The Coronavirus pandemic caused the whole of the United Kingdom to go into lockdown, and with that, all major sports were suspended indefinitely.

For all sports, including football, this meant there would be no ticketing money and no other ways to make money, as they were still trying to pay their players, who as everyone knows are on inflated wages.

Many clubs started to panic, such as Liverpool, who put some of their non-playing staff on the government’s furlough scheme, as they thought they could not afford the wages for these staff members, despite making £42m the previous year, and after major backlash, Liverpool made a U-turn and decided to pay their staff fully throughout the lockdown.

With some of the richest teams panicking about finances during this time, many thought this would affect the summer transfer window which was fast approaching. Football restarted again in May 2020, but with no fans allowed in grounds, leading to no ticketing money yet again.

However, these clubs were now receiving money from sponsors again and a lot of sides offered virtual tickets, where fans could pay to watch a stream of the game with all money going to the club hosting, but this still does not seem enough for the transfer window to be as high spending as it has been in the past.

The Premier League’s highest spend in the summer transfer window was in 2017, where Premier League clubs spent a total of £1.49b during this window, compared to £1.19b in 2016. Premier League sides spending trajectory has been getting higher and higher since 2016. In 2018, Premier League clubs spent £1.27b and then the year after it rises to £1.40b.

However, in 2020, it did go down to a total of £1.30b spend over all Premier League clubs. Chelsea was one main reason the spending was still high, as they spent a total of £226.1m in this window, due to them having a transfer ban the summer beforehand so they had backed up transfer budget for 2020.

Manchester City are always big spenders as well, and they spent a total of £147m in the 2020 summer window, which was never going to be a surprise.

Although Premier League sides spent a lot of money yet again in 2020, it is not as much as it has been in the past, but the drop in spending was only £100m whereas from the 2017 to 2018 window, the drop in spending was £220m, this shows that COVID-19 did not affect the spending in Premier League transfer windows too much.

A reason for this could be that clubs wanted to bolster their squads for the upcoming season. Players were more likely to miss out on games as if they contracted COVID-19 or encountered someone that does, then they would have to self-isolate for 14 days, meaning clubs will need more players in their squad to ensure a successful 2020/21 season. The season also started two weeks later than usual and with the winter break coming in for the first time, there was more opportunity to have devastating fixture congestion so to keep fitness at its prime, these clubs will need major squad depth.


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