In the wake of Fulham’s fine start to the season, the relative strength of the Craven Cottage squad and the club’s financial might has been subject of much comment in the media and on one particular podcast. The situation is more complex that the suggestion that the Whites have spent twice as much as anyone else in the division, so I thought it was worth examining in detail. The amount of money splashing around in this transfer window has been reduced following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, so a fuller analysis needs to take a longer view.
In my previous article, I discussed the spending of a number of clubs such as Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Looking back through the years from when the Whites first competed back in the Championship in 2014/2015 until now, I’ve compiled a list of the most expensive Championship signings as well as looking at the major club spending and who has made the biggest loss.
The record signing in the Championship is currently the Portuguese midfielder Ruben Neves, who moved to Molineux for £16m and enjoyed a remarkable campaign as Wolves stormed to the title and was nominated as the EFL player of the year and young player of the year. A list of the other nine most expensive transfers in the division over this period – using the data compiled by Transfermarkt – makes for instructive reading:
1st. Ruben Neves, £16 million to Wolverhampton Wanderers
2nd. Britt Assombalonga £15 million to Middlesbrough.
3rd. Joaõ Carvalho £13.5 million to Nottingham Forest.
4th. Hélder Costa £13.5 million to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
5th. Ross McCormack £12 million to Aston Villa
6th. Harry Wilson, £12 million to Fulham (although this has been widely reported as being an initial loan from Liverpool).
7th. Benik Afobe £12 million to Stoke City.
8th. Jonathan Kodjia £11 million to Aston Villa
9th. Isaac Mbenza £11 million to Huddersfield.
10th. Andre Gray £11 million to Burnley.
I have now looked at the transfer income received and spent by each Championship club season-by-season since 2014/15 to look at who really have been the big spenders.
Fulham spent: £15.69M, income: £16.11M – profit £420k.
Middlesbrough spent: £10M, income: £5.53M. – loss £4.47M.
Norwich spent: £18.32M, income: £17.44M. – loss 876K.
Watford spent: £8.10M, income: £0.495K. – loss £7.61M.
QPR spent: £12.74M, income: £16.57M. +£3.8M in profit.
Burnley spent: £23.13M, income: £16.63M. -£4.5M in loss.
QPR spent: £15.67M, income: £10.62M. -£5.05M in loss.
Middlesbrough spent: £30.06M, income: £6.39M. -£23.67M in loss.
Derby spent: £30.65M, income: £0. -£30.65M in loss.
Sheffield Wednesday spent: £13.91M, income: £1.22M. -£12.69M in loss.
Fulham spent: £7.80M, income: £8.57M. +770k in profit.
Brighton spent: £12.12M, income: £0. – £12.12M in loss.
Newcastle spent: £57.83M, income: £90.79M. +32.96M in profit.
Norwich spent: £23.81M, income: £33.03M. +£9.23m in profit.
Aston Villa spent: £76.95m, income: £41.22M. -£35.73M loss.
Derby spent: £15.54m, income: £14.63m. -905k loss.
Sheffield Wednesday spent: £9.81m, income: £0. -£9.81m loss.
Birmingham spent: £9.08m, income: 180K. -£8.90m loss.
Wolves spent: £32.49m, income: £2.69m. -£29.80m loss.
Fulham spent £23.00m, income: £21.40m. -£1.59m loss.
Hull City spent: £17.86m, income: £40.65m. +22.79m in profit.
Middlesbrough spent: £50.09m, income: £48.87m. -£1.22m loss.
Reading spent: £12.69m, income: £1.86m. -£10.83m loss.
Sheffield Wednesday spent: £13.68m, income: £0m. -£13.68 loss.
Fulham spent: £18.15m, income: £16.38m. -£1.77m loss.
Leeds United spent: £25.59m, income: £15.75m. -£9.84m loss.
Cardiff City spent: £11.40m, income: £2.39m. -£9.02m loss.
Wolves spent: £22.15m, income: £5.69m. -£16.46m loss.
Bristol City spent: £12.09m, income: £2.97m. -£9.12m loss.
Birmingham spent: £15.89m, income: £4.23m. -£11.66m loss.
Stoke City spent: £56.61m, income: £27.14m. -£29.48m loss.
Aston Villa spent: £17.19m, income: £14.54m. -£2.66m loss.
Middlesbrough spent: £19.35m, income: £43.28m. +£23.93m in profit.
Nottingham Forest spent £24.69m, income: £1.08m. -£23.60m loss.
Cardiff City spent: £16.21m, income: 17.82m. +£1.61m in profit.
Fulham spent: £33.30m, income £25.65. -£7.65m loss.
West Brom spent: £19.35m, income: £33.54m. +£33.54m in profit.
Derby spent: £7.38m, income: £1.22m. -£6.17m.
Bristol City spent: £29.66m, income: £43.86m. +£14.21m in profit.
Brentford spent: £31.19m, income: £36.83m. +£5.64m in profit.
Birmingham spent: £9.25m, income: £21.42m. ++£12.17m in profit.
Reading spent: £11.61m, income: 765k. -£10.85m loss.
Nottingham Forest spent: £13.45m, income £14.18m. +£729K.
The spending in this current season has obviously not finished – we are not even at the end of the summer transfer window yet. Middlesbrough have spent around £6.86m. Some outlets have suggested that Fulham have already spent £20m but when the club’s only signings have been Paulo Gazzaniga (on a free transfer from Tottenham) and Harry Wilson on an initial loan (which could eventually rise to as much as £12m) you realise that there are some inaccuracies involved. The impending arrival of Rodrigo Muniz for a fee believed to be eventually more than £6m will increase the club’s spending, but you also have to factor in the departures of Aboubakar Kamara – for around £4m – and Stefan Johansen (reportedly sold for an initial £600,000 to QPR) and whether any other players will depart before the end of August.
I have also selected a set of sides, including Fulham, comparing how much they’ve spent, how much income they got from transfers and if they made profit or a loss since 2014/15 – bearing in mind, that like the Whites, several clubs have been promoted and relegation in this period.
Relegated to the championship for the 2016/17 season until promotion took them back to the Premier League for the 2019/20 season.
Spent in total: £96.66m, income in total: £71.81m. They made a total loss of -£24.85m in their three years in the championship.
Spent in total: £46.72m, income: £54.68m. They made a total profit of +£7.96m
Spent in total: £83.77m, income: £55.66m. They made a total loss of -£28.11m.
Spent in total: £47.51m, income: £33.765m. They made a total loss of -£13.745m
Spent in total: £41.639m , income: £9.32m. They made a total loss of -£32.319m
Spent in total: £65.06m, income in total: £80.92m. They made a total profit of +£15.86.
From 2014 until promotion in 2018
Spent in total: £66.52m, income: £23.6m. They have made a total loss of -£42.92m.
This will be broken down into two sections as Fulham have been up and down between championship and PL – 2014-18, 19-20
From 2014-18 they have spent in total: £64.64m, income: £62.46m. This marks a loss of -£2.18m.
in 2019/20 they spent £33.30m, income: £25.65m. This marks them at a loss of -£7.65m.
in total they have spent: £97.94m, income: £88.11. In total loss of -£9.83m.
From 2014 until promotion from the Championship at the end of 2015/16 season.
They spent in total: £40.06m, income: £11.92m. They made a total loss of -£28.14m.
Following their relegation they were back for the 2017/18 season.
They have spent in total: £75.31m, income: £105.286m. They made a profit of £29.976m.
Meaning they are in total profit of £1.836m.
As you can see from the detailed lists above, Fulham’s spending is not an outlier when we consider the recent finances of Championship clubs. There is probably a legitimate argument about whether the financial structures of English football create an even greater gulf between the have and have nots – something that is arguably only enhanced by the parachutes payments that clubs who drop down from the Premier League receive. There is no doubt that the instability of a number of clubs is also caused by the game’s lax governance and the unsuitability of the ironically named fit and proper person’s test for owners and directors. Reigning in rampant spending would be a laudable aim but it requires the powers that be to take action. Until they do, clubs will try to use any advantage possible to put them in the strongest position on the pitch.