• Fri
  • Sep 19, 2014
  • Updated: 12:31am
Column
PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 September, 2014, 10:47pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 06 September, 2014, 12:18am

Home and Away: Gluttony of transfer window is enough to make you sick

Greed in the English Premier League resembles excesses of TV show Man v. Food - but you can't help stay tuned to the perversity

BIO

Peter Simpson is a China-UK based journalist and the SCMP’s former Beijing 2008 Olympics news editor. He has covered major international news and sporting events, most recently the London 2012 Olympics and Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine. Peter is a Premier League season ticket holder at newly promoted Southampton FC.
 

There is a TV series you may have seen called Man v. Food, the format of which sees the presenter (a suitably rotund, jolly man) traverse the diners of North America to take up house-special challenges.

Said man is dared to eat against the clock a supersized or super-spiced (or both) dish - from giant pizzas, steaks and burgers to red-hot chilli dogs, hell-fried chicken wings and nuclear burritos.

Finish every last morsel and to the hall of fame a photo is pinned and the bill binned. Fail and you pay up in shame.

Now we have players signed up on perverse and expensive hire-purchase agreements, the reckless 'never-never that says it's all right to play and cheer now, only to pay heavily and regret later

The gluttony knows no bounds, and during the half-hour of quirky camera angles, stage-managed quips, greasy-queasy HD jowls and whooping flushed chefs and bloated diners, you witness all that is absurd and ethically corrupt about the indulgent free world and plight of the underfed third.

Yet the slick production and adversarial conceit makes this kitsch food-porn compulsive viewing. You can't help stay tuned and angrily cheer on the food mountain to win one over the slobbering human, hoping the triple helping of crassness and greed eats itself in a choking fit of frothing condiment.

The 2014 English Premier League transfer window left a similar bad taste when it closed on Monday because its own rapacity resembled too closely the culinary exploits on the flat screen.

In this new era of "frugality" under Uefa Financial Fair Play (FFP) laws, the EPL duly spent a record £858 million (HK$10.85 billion) gross this summer - up £200 million on last year's lavish spend.

English top-flight clubs splashed out more than Spain's La Liga (£425 million), Italy's Serie A (£260 million) and France's Ligue 1 (£100 million) combined. Germany's Bundesliga spent a frugal £250 million.

Not included in the EPL's record spend is the money from the rash of loan deals, including Radamel Falcao's. He will at some future point become a £50 million full-time Manchester United player, though not just yet.

Though presented as a squad member for the next four years, the paperwork shows he is merely on a £6 million year's loan from Monaco after United agreed to pay his weekly wage demand of £265,000, or £18 million upfront. Because of its loan status, his £24 million one-year hire is not included in the EPL's transfer tally.

Meanwhile over in the blue half of Manchester, Alvaro Negredo was signed to Valencia for £25 million, also on loan terms, and likewise the amount will not appear on La Liga's £425 million gross spend because it has been deferred for a year.

Fernando Torres joined AC Milan on a two-year loan, at the end of which his contract with Chelsea expires. The money handed over by the Italian club has yet to be disclosed but whatever the amount, it too will not show on Serie A's transfers' ledger in this fiscal year.

The closer you look at many of the recent loans between clubs across the EPL and European leagues, the more you realise the accountants, agents and boardrooms have been enjoying a spell of bookkeeping creativity since the FFP came into force.

Most of the top players loaned out are unlikely to return to their contract-holding clubs because there appears to be anything temporary about the moves.

After all, few if any of these top players need to go off and develop their game. Tellingly, once they've agreed on astronomical personal terms for their secondment their loyalty switches instantly.

A case in point is Liverpool's Sebastian Coates. Like a prodigal son he enthusiastically pulled on his Sunderland shirt even though he is still a Reds player. When his loan expires next May he will have one year remaining on his Liverpool contract.

Nobody expects to see the 23-year-old back at Anfield and yet the deal will not show on Sunderland's or the EPL books for a year.

Loans have of course long been an important part of football, yet the rising number and intensity of temporary transfers this summer point to something more dubious, of creative accountancy to avoid and evade and exploit FFP loopholes.

FFP was designed to save football from its excesses and scale back debt. Shame no one told England. Thanks to the ever-increasing TV and sponsorship deals, EPL clubs have collectively spent more than ever in the past month.

Now we have players signed up on perverse and expensive hire-purchase agreements, the reckless "never-never" that says it's all right to play and cheer now, only to pay heavily and regret later.

The transfer window has become much like Man v. Food, so outlandish it's enough to make you sick. Yet you can't stop watching the gluttony.

Striker for hire Falcao and his agent celebrated his "loan" deal at a Chinese restaurant, where a wise cracker calculated his weekly wage could buy 76,684 spring rolls, 51,851 bowls of wonton soup, 6,236 Peking ducks, 23,529 portions of black bean beef and 90,322 bowls of rice.

The billion-pound rubicon is likely to be crossed during the Christmas transfer window and that begs a question: is the game heading towards a tragic, "wafer-thin mint" moment, like that which befell Monty Python's Mr Creosote?

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