Is Money Ruining Soccer?


Author’s note: Monetary values have been converted from British pounds to U.S. Dollars. 


In an age of commercialization and potential profits like never before, people and groups rich in wealth take hold of soccer teams worldwide and transform the squad with numerous hefty purchases. However, recent attempts by billionaires worldwide have proven to change the course of their franchises. This begs the question: is money ruining soccer? 

Owning any sports team is an investment. A party invests lots of money into a franchise, with the goals of making a profit on their work and club’s performance. It’s no secret that the biggest league in the world, England’s Premier League, has an enormous say in a club’s financial stability. Being relegated from this league could be so damaging to a club’s finances that they are guaranteed “parachute payments” from the league over the next three years, at 55 percent, 45 percent, and 20 percent of their Premier League incomes. With this stress placed on front offices and executives, the urge to spend more and more on high-level talent becomes much more pressing. 

With average transfer window spending increasing every year (totaling $1.72 billion in the Premier League’s 2021/22 windows), both the fans and executives pressure the owner to spend money that, sometimes, the club does not have. The most famous example of what is known as “Pulling a Leeds” was Leeds United’s gross overspending after the 2002/03 season, resulting in a near expulsion from the league altogether, before eventually facing a 15-point punishment by the governing body of English soccer and finding themselves in the third division. 

The increased demand and constant allure of furthering one’s riches are the motivating factors behind the fact that only two out of the 20 teams in the Premier League have been able to turn profits through the transfer market over the last five seasons. With this in mind, it is clear that money does ruin soccer. The direct correlation between money spent and success is evident, as the spending from England’s traditional “Big Six” of historically dominant teams total $7.58 billion over the last five years. On the other hand, 2020/21’s last place finishers, Sheffield United, have only spent $197.80 million in that same time frame, with roughly 91 percent ($179.73 million) of that money spent during their two-year stint in the top division. 

Additionally, the traditional integrity of building a strong program through academies and young signings has become nearly unapparent. The capacity that teams have to drop tens of millions on high-level talent no longer indicates that a team is quality; only that they can afford the luxury of bringing in already-made quality players. Manchester City, who has won the league three of the last four seasons, recently spent what will total $104.88 million to sign one of the world’s most well-known and dominant young strikers in Erling Haaland. Only bolstering an offense already loaded with expensive firepower, the Citizens of Manchester are beginning to use their wealth as an advantage over less fortunate clubs. 

It is clear that the effects of saturating the game with money provide a disproportionate benefit to those franchises fortunate enough to be powered by the pound. Hopefully in coming years, soccer can make some sort of return back towards the way it was before money invaded the game.