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ECA Publishes Study On European Transfer System

Wed 5th Mar 2014 | Football Governance

The European Club Association (ECA) published the findings of a study into the transfer system in Europe at its General Assembly in Barcelona yesterday.

The gathering of 151 member clubs from 52 different national associations for the 12th General Assembly were presented with an in-depth overview of all the incoming and outgoing transfer transactions involving European clubs over a two-year period 2011/12 and 2012/13.

Ahead the presentation, ECA Chairman, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge reiterated ECA’s support for UEFA’s Financial Fair Play Regulations.

Rummenigge underlined that ECA expects the regulations to be implemented in a serious way reminding members that they unanimously endorsed the project at the ECA General Assembly in Manchester back in 2010.

Commenting, Rummenigge said, “Much time and effort was invested in this project. There is no way back and we cannot afford to take it nice and easy.

“Financial Fair Play is not a punishment; it is an opportunity for all of us. I can only call on UEFA to act in the most serious way possible when it comes to ensuring the full implementation.”

The Study on the Transfer System in Europe

The ECA Executive Board mandated PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and LIUC University to carry out this work.

In summary, the study allows to formulate the following assumptions:


  • The football industry is not different to the rest of the economy.
  • Clubs’ revenue growth is absorbed by employee costs.
  • Money redistribution from top to bottom is a fact.
  • The current transfer system counters competitive imbalance.
  • Out-of-contract transfers represent the majority of total international transfers.
  • The collection of solidarity contribution has to be enhanced.
  • Club agent commissions are significantly high.
  • The majority of total international loans involve Under-23 players.


The total number of international transfers made by European clubs analysed in the study was 14,322, for a total value of $5,147m. 66% of these transfers (or 9,511) were originated by transactions within the UEFA territory, whereas the remaining 34% was evenly distributed between incoming and outgoing transfers with non-UEFA countries.

European clubs had a negative transfer balance vis-à-vis South America and Asia, with net disposals of respectively 59 and 342 players. This means that more players were transferred from Europe to South America and Asia than the other way around. Such negative balance was almost entirely offset by the transfer activity with Africa with 307 net acquisitions.

In terms of value of transfers, European clubs exchanged $4,007m amongst them, whereas they paid $801m to non-UEFA countries and received $339m, resulting in a net transfer spend equal to $462m. Money was primarily paid to South America (€527m net spent) and received by Asia ($135m net received).

Furthermore, the study focuses on all the international and domestic transfers involving major 5 leagues’ clubs, which, during the 2-year period 2011/12 and 2012/13, amounted to 5,491 for a total value of €4,853m. Only 1,110 transfers (20%) occurred amongst the major 5 leagues’ clubs, whereas 2,935 (or 54%) were the outgoing transfers to clubs outside the major 5 leagues and 1,446 (or 26%) the incoming.

The net outflow of players from major 5 leagues’ clubs to the other leagues was 1,489. Outgoing transfers with respective lower divisions accounted for a large part of such number, due to the large volume of players sent on loan.

With respect to the value of those transfers, in the 2 seasons of analysis, major 5 leagues’ clubs exchanged €2,661m among them, whilst they paid €1,551m to other leagues’ clubs and received €642m, generating a deficit of €909m.

The study also found that European football revenues have grown since 2007, with an annual average increase of 5.6%. However the total transfer expenditure remained stable (approx. €3bn a year on average) and its incidence on revenues have reduced since 2007, from 28% to 22%. In the same period, employee costs increased by 8.5% each year, absorbing a large part of the aforementioned revenue growth.

Additional analyses performed in the study highlight the role of club agents. It found agent compensation to be quite significant and suggested it should be reviewed carefully. Over the 2-year review period, club agent commissions totalled $254m, representing 14.6% of the value of the 865 transfers with which they were involved ($1,740m). The majority of those commissions, equal to $211m (or 83%), was generated by transfers within the UEFA territory.

In conclusion, there are several indicators emerging from the Study which show that the current transfer system allows for the free movement of players and the redistribution of money from top to bottom. Thus, competitive balance seems to work but could still be improved by defining a higher level of transparency and disclosure on loans, club agent commissions and the solidarity mechanism.

In addition to the study, the ECA welcomed Celtic FC CEO, Peter Lawwell who was elected to join the Executive Board for the remaining period of the running membership cycle, following the resignation of Zoran Mamić (now head coach at GNK Dinamo),

For more info visit the ECA Website

Posted by: Aaron Gourley 

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