Soccer's transfer market is getting an extra kick from offshore lending, even as the sport's European ruling body Uefa tries to restrict record spending. Vibrac, a closely held lender in the British Virgin Islands, financed as much as £150 million (HK$1.9 billion) of loans in England, Spain and Germany last year, a source with direct knowledge of the deals said. Doyen Sports provided about US$130 million of financing in the past two years, chief executive Nelio Lucas said. As the Union of European Football Association tried to rein in spending with so-called financial fair play rules, some teams were still taking business risks by signing players, said Raffaele Poli, a researcher at CIES Football Observatory in Switzerland. Transfer spending in Europe's five biggest leagues rose 9 per cent to a record €2.4 billion (HK$23.6 billion) in the last off-season, CIES research shows. "The Uefa's rules aren't having as much effect as they would like," Poli said. Middle and low-ranking clubs "are taking risks to keep up with the bigger ones". The biggest factor contributing to the transfer spending boom was an increase in English Premier League television rights money, Poli said. The league accounted for 45 per cent of spending in Europe's five biggest leagues in the last off-season, CIES said. Manchester United more than doubled its spending on signings to about £150 million. Publicly listed United, whose financiers include Bank of America, has not notified investors of any deals with offshore lenders. Smaller teams than United were turning to such lenders after banks retreated from soccer following the 2007 financial crisis, said Martin Blake, a banking at law firm Farrer & Co. "The vast majority of clubs just don't have the money to pay upfront," Blake said. Vibrac loaned money against future Premier League income to British teams including West Ham, Southampton, Everton, Fulham and Reading since 2011, filings by the clubs showed. Mousehole, also registered in the British Virgin Islands, financed Atletico Madrid, Getafe and Deportivo La Coruna in Spain and Germany's Hertha Berlin in 2011. Company filings show Vibrac in 2013 loaned money to Fulham in return for £16 million of future Premier League revenue and advanced Reading cash against £11.7 million of so-called parachute payments, the funds clubs get when they are relegated. Vibrac and Mousehole were controlled by a single anonymous investor, the source said, adding Vibrac might lend up to £150 million to clubs this year. Malta-based Doyen, whose anonymous investors are partners in the Rixos luxury hotel chain with Fettah Tamince of Turkey and Kazakhstan's Tevfik Arif, had provided finance for "three or four clubs" in the English Premier League and second-tier Championship, Lucas said. In many of Doyen's financing deals outside Britain, it acquires a stake in the future transfer fees of players. That has been banned in English soccer since 2008. One possible reason for lenders being secretive was the "frenzy" that soccer could generate if a club ran into financial trouble, Blake said. A Premier League spokesman said lenders such as Vibrac were required to explain their ownership structure to league officials. The Uefa has tapered soccer's transfer boom by limiting the outlay of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain for breaching regulations, which prohibited a loss of more than €45 million over the two previous seasons. The offshore loans were not necessarily ploughed into transfer spending, said Graham Shear, a lawyer at Berwin Leighton Paisner. He said clubs often sought funds before the start of the season to help manage uncertainties in their cash flow.