First things first, I know that as soon as this article, the club will announce a signing. That’s just sods law. But the question still remains, why haven’t Fulham signed anyone?
First of all, let me just explain that a lack of signings isn’t merely a Fulham problem, with just seven permanent fee-paying deals made so far with just two days to go. The Premier League and the rest of the footballing world has found itself in a rather unusual situation in this winter window, as has the world has for the past 11 months, lacking the usual busy month filled with extortionately priced transfers. In fact, the number of players that Fulham have been linked with this time around can probably be counted on both hands. For most clubs, the answer is due to COVID-19, of course, but Fulham seem to find themselves a bit deeper down the rabbit hole than others.
COVID-19 has obviously had a major impact on every football club and at every level. Matchday revenue, which is the most important revenue stream for football clubs as its regularity allows the payment of operating costs, has been eliminated due to the restrictions but in place to combat the virus. This has led to many clubs having to live off of the broadcasting and commercial revenues, that while much larger, come only once or perhaps twice per season. Consequently, clubs are reluctant to spend these revenue streams on more transfers and higher wage costs, with the Whites being no exception, whilst also demanding high transfer fees to sell any players to cover their costs, leading to a turgid transfer market.
Fulham may also be suffering from a lack of targets to pursue, especially with inflated prices and a lack of cash. Having been linked to relatively few players, it seems as though Fulham are in the hunt for a fairly rare player – a cheap, quick and prolific striker that is capable at the elite level. This is especially hard to find given the club’s favourability towards a loan deal, due to the risk of relegation, as the loaning club wouldn’t not even be compensated upfront to lose the player, other than perhaps a small loan fee, so cannot replace them themselves.
Therefore, the only affordable market at the moment for most clubs seems to be France. This is due to the collapse of the Ligue 1 TV deal, which some estimate will lose the league a total 1.3 billion Euros, with an average loss of 65 million Euros per team. With French clubs ready to offload star players to account for these losses, this is the reason why we have seen Fulham linked to Boulaye Dia, Moussa Dembele and now Josh Maja.
However, where Fulham differentiates from most clubs is the proximity in which the club seems to be operating close to the Financial Fair Play limit. Without going into too much detail and bamboozling everybody, the main costs that Fulham faces are ‘total staff costs’, mainly player wages, as well as the amortisation of transfer fees. Amortisation is how an initial cost is split over a set period of time, in this case a transfer fee split over a player’s contracted years at the club and if their contract is extended, the remaining amount is spread over the extension period.
Should Fulham stay up this season, the FFP limit for next season is an £83 million loss over the 3-year period. However, should Fulham be relegated, this will drop to just a £61 million loss over the 2019/20-2021/22 period. While this seems like a large amount, in footballing terms it is not. It is understood that Fulham may be operating close to this limit which explains the shrewd summer spending as well as the lack of transfers this window.
Hopefully the club is able to get someone in before the deadline on Monday, with a loan being preferable.
What are your opinions on the potential Josh Maja deal? And what other options would you consider?