Last 5 seasons:
Celtic, a transfer trading profit of £177,000
Rangers, a transfer trading deficit just over £13,000,000
I feel that tells the story of Rangers current financial situation.
What has your team spent on transfers in the last five years?
Every team in the current SPL has spent money on transfer fees in the last five seasons. We look at who has spent, and recouped, the most.
Scott Brown holds the record transfer between two SPL clubs. Pic: © SNS Group
The perceived wisdom around Scotland is that clubs in the SPL don’t pay transfer fees anymore.
The severe financial cutbacks that were forced on our game by the collapse of the Setanta deal, coupled with falling crowds are key reasons given for the lack of spending power within Scotland.
What the following table shows is that is certainly not the case. While we’re unlikely to have a transfer deadline day bonanza in the way that certain other leagues may, there are still financial movements being made to acquire and release players.
The following table shows the transfer spend of each of the current SPL clubs. We’ll get a couple of caveats out of the way first of all. The data we have here is the best available, but in some cases it’s not gospel.
In the cases of Aberdeen, Celtic and Rangers all of the figures used were taken directly from their annual reports with the exception of Rangers in 2010/11, which has yet to be released. This info is straight from the horse’s mouth and is accurate to the nearest £1000.
For the clubs that don’t publicly release their books we’ve used a number of trusted sources and the reports from transfers at the time. These figures may not be quite as close to the dead-on figure that we have for the three clubs mentioned previously, but they’re pretty damn close.
In some cases there is a £0 transfer outlay for the season, which means there were no reports or suggestions that any transfer money changed hands in that particular year. Again, that is not absolutely gospel; it is based on the players signed, their ages, whether they were previously under contract and any other indicators that a fee was paid.
Secondly we need to define what counts as a transfer fee here. In the case of annual reports a transfer fee is known either as a “payment to acquire/receipt from sale of player’s registration” or a “payment to acquire/receipt from sale of an intangible asset”. Very basically speaking, this is accountant speak for a transfer fee. What counts as a transfer fee? Money received for a player or manager to move clubs. It may also include fees paid for loaning a player.
It’s also worth noting that some of these figures don’t tally exactly with transfer fees reported at the time. That is because annual reports for each year only count the money that has already been received, and don’t include instalments due in the future or bonus performance payments, which will only be recorded when they’re received.
For example, Carlos Cuellar moved to Aston Villa for a reported £7.7m, but Rangers’ incomings for that year were £7.6m and that also included the sale of Daniel Cousin and Jean-Claude Darcheville. That would suggest that at least part of the Cuellar fee was made up of instalments and/or bonuses to be paid at a later date.
Clear enough? Now, here’s the science part…
Transfer fees spent
The first revelation is that every club in the division has paid a transfer fee over the last five seasons. These may not be the exorbitant fees that are seen in the English Premiership, but business is being done. Celtic have the highest outlay, with a spend of just over £35 million, closely followed by Rangers who have spent around £33 million in the same period.
As expected, there is a significant drop off in money out after the Old Firm clubs. Hearts have spent almost £3 million in that time, with over half of that spent on the arrivals of Mauricio Pinilla, Christos Karipidis, Laryea Kingston and Christian Nade.
Hibernian have spent around £1.5 million acquiring the likes of Anthony Stokes, Derek Riordan, John Rankin and Torben Joneleit, while Dundee United have spent just short of seven figures, the largest chunk of that being on Jon Daly. Almost two thirds of Aberdeen’s transfer spending was on Tommy Wright, Charlie Mulgrew, Sone Aluko and bringing Mark McGhee back to Pittodrie.
A third of Motherwell’s spend was in bringing back Steven Hammell from Southend. Inverness, St Johnstone and Kilmarnock have spent small amounts taking in the likes of Dougie Imrie, Liam Craig and Connor Sammon. Dunfermline and St Mirren paid out small fees for the likes of Kevin Rutkiewicz and Eddie Malone.
But who are the teams that are making money from selling their players?
Transfer fees received
Again we see Celtic leading the way in terms of pure numbers, with big transfer fees received in particular for Aidan McGeady and Stilian Petrov. Rangers have made sales of just over £20 million, with the departure of Carlos Cuellar a large part of that.
Here is where Hibernian really punch above their weight. The Easter Road side have sold just over £16 million of players in five years, including very large fees for Steven Fletcher, Scott Brown and Steven Whittaker.
Hearts have also sold well, and while they have not received all of the £9 million for Craig Gordon, the sale of the Sunderland goalkeeper, Roman Bednar and Andrius Velicka made a huge amount in 07/08. Kilmarnock also owe their healthy sale figure to one deal in particular; Steven Naismith moving to Rangers.
Motherwell and Dundee United have sold well, getting good fees for David Clarkson, Paul Quinn and Barry Robson. Aberdeen have also fared fairly well, particularly with the sales of Lee Miller and Russell Anderson.
Inverness and St Mirren have returned modest amounts, while almost all of St Johnstone’s transfer incomings have come from the “sale” of Owen Coyle to Burnley. Dunfermline’s sale of Willie Gibson to Crawley accounts for the vast majority of their dealings.
So, who has been turning a profit?
Balance of transfer spend over five years
Again we see Hibernian as big winners, because their business model is so focused on bringing through youth players and moving them on for healthy fees. Hearts too have done well with the wheeling and dealing of player sales.
Almost every club in the division has turned a modest profit, although that may well be by necessity rather than by design, as financial threats and the lure of bigger money south of the border take hold. The fact that so few clubs make operating profit, even after positive balances in the transfer market, suggests that is still the case.
Celtic’s transfer balance is interesting, given the figures involved, as they seem to spend exactly what they make, reinvesting the money taken from sales into the playing squad. The club transfer policy seems to be to find players with a sell-on value, put them in the metaphorical shop window, sell them on at a profit and then repeat the process with the proceeds.
Only two clubs make a loss in their dealings. St Johnstone look to have made a modest loss of around £40,000 because they haven’t managed to move on many of their current crop. With interest in players like Murray Davidson or next year’s inclusion of any compensation for the loss of Derek McInnes that may well change overnight.
Rangers also have a significant deficit, particularly down the lack of player sales. Again, this may change suddenly if the likes of Nikica Jelavic are moved on for a good fee, and there will be some positives from next year’s report with the sell-on fee for Charlie Adam. However, significant fees were paid on players such as Filip Sebo, Jeremy Clement, Kyle Lafferty and Jelavic himself.
The only significant sales were of Carlos Cuellar, Danny Wilson and Alan Hutton, with the likes of Sebo, Clement, Svensson, and Kevin Thomson moved on for a loss. There are signs of this attitude changing, with Ally McCoist somewhat forced into less glamorous markets in search of young, marketable talent.
And that is what every Scottish manager is after.
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