And Newcastle United‘s Saudi-led takeover really will propel the Magpies into contention with the Big Six in the Premier League, at least when it comes to transfer spending.
An analysis of top flight clubs undertaken for Sportsmail by Kieran Maguire, a lecturer in football finance at the University of Liverpool, estimates what each club could spend and still stay within the FFP limit.
Tottenham’s new manager Antonio Conte will have the opportunity to spend under FFP rules
He has calculated that Spurs have by far the most FFP ‘wiggle room’ after a decade of bumper profits and limited transfer spending.
In fact, the north London club could spend up to £400m and stay within the FFP limit, twice the sum available to Arsenal and comfortably more than Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City.
‘Spurs net transfer spend since 2010 is between a quarter and a half of the other Big Six clubs and it is the most successful club in terms of keeping its wages low as a proportion of income the club generates,’ Maguire told Sportsmail.
‘Spurs have had a business model rather than a trophy winning model.’
FFP allows clubs to make a loss, which is made up by wealthy owners, of £105m over three years. However, turning a profit, offsetting expenditure against against capital or football development projects and boosting revenues helps to stretch that envelope.
Spurs have disappointed this season after a bright start and are expected to make signings
Newcastle United have been propelled into the the Premier League’s big spenders. The club will be able to spend £166m in a rolling three-year period and still operate within Financial Fair Play limits. With the new Saudi-backed owners, the club can now afford to realise its spending potential. However, analysts expect the club to quickly strike new commercial deals worth up to £100m that would expand the allowable expenditure to more that £200m, putting the Tyneside club in contention with Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United. Meanwhile, Spurs’ profitability over the last decade mean they have the potential to spend more than any club. Source: University of Liverpool
Conte is widely expected to be given money to spend in the January window. Having seen his new side almost throw away a 3-0 lead against Vitesse in the Europa Conference League and then put in a lacklustre display in a 0-0 draw at Everton, he may be feeling that recruitment is even more important than he suspected.
And the former Italy manager has previously indicated how much importance he places on the opportunity to invest in a squad.
The Italian has left his last three clubs – Inter Milan, Chelsea and Juventus – over issues of money or control.
However, there is no culture of profligate spending at Spurs, far from it.
Maguire has calculated that between 2010 and 2020, Spurs made profits before tax of £401m, compared to huge losses at Manchester City and Chelsea and pre-tax profits of £128m at Manchester United.
In addition, Spurs net transfer spend since 2010 is between a quarter and a half of the other Big Six clubs.
Even so, the potential to spend and stay within FFP does not mean that Spurs either have the money available or the intention to invest it.
One of Conte’s first tasks will be to make Harry Kane feel comfortable and to get him scoring
Chart shows how Tottenham Hotspur have delivered far greater profits than Big Six rivals in the last 10 years. Source: University of Liverpool
And Spurs have achieved that in part by spending less on wages and transfers in that decade. Source: University of Liverpool
‘They have got the ability to spend in this transfer window provided they can get the funding for it. Whether that comes from ENIC, they go to the market of they have the cash, added Maguire.
‘Daniel Levy has run the club as a business superbly, but if you view it as more than a business then it’s not superb. The gap between Spurs and the bigger clubs has been maintained. If Spurs are happy to be sixth, then fine.’
It is suggested Conte is already looking at players he can move on, as well as those he can bring in. And of course, cheering up the Spurs talisman, Harry Kane, will be top of his list.
But the fact is there will be no honeymoon period for Conte at Spurs, he knows he has to hit the ground running.
With Champions League football at stake, the new Tottenham boss needs Premier League points, and he needs them immediately.
The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is a crucial part of Spurs business plan in the years ahead
Not least because the Spurs business plan is built upon maximising income from the their fantastic new, 62,000 capacity stadium, in order to release more funds to pay for wages and transfer fees, thereby closing the gap on rivals without calling on the owners for money.
Manchester United, by virtue of their large capacity, have been the most successful club in terms of match day income for all of this century, but potentially Spurs will overhaul them. However, that may depend on big European fixtures that will boost the coffers.
The FFP calculations are likely to infuriate Spurs fans, even more than they are already.
The Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust recently went public with questions it has for the club’s board after their request for a meeting was rejected.
The fans group wanted to meet with senior figures at Spurs to discuss the club’s strategy and vision for the future, but were turned down, prompting further protests.
Spurs fans displayed this banner last month after the supporters’ trust raised concerns
Meanwhile, Newcastle will be able to spend around £200million on players without breaching FFP rules in a rolling three-year period, once the new owners have negotiated early commercial deals.
There is no doubt the consortium now running the club, which is backed by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, has the money to invest right up to the allowable limit following a £305m takeover.
New boss Eddie Howe will have money to spend to keep the Magpies in the top flight, but the owners and manager have an awkward balancing act, since whatever they spend in January to stay up will diminish their FFP ‘wiggle room’ in the summer and in future years, when they may want to add more established players to the squad.
Newcastle United fans feel they have hit the jackpot after a Saudi-backed £305m takeover
A sum of £200m places Newcastle ahead of Manchester City and in a similar ball park to Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United, while leaving other top-four wannabes, such as Everton, West Ham and Leicester trailing in their wake.
‘As it stands the FFP position at Newcastle would have been the same without the takeover, however, the club now has an owner that will be prepared to exploit the potential since they have the resources and probably the inclination to do so,’ said Maguire, who also runs the Price of Football podcast.
‘What’s more, Newcastle’s position is expected to strengthen further as it starts to strike new and lucrative commercial deals.’
By making a profit in previous years, bringing in additional revenue through new commercial deals and offsetting some expenditure by investing in infrastructure, academies and the community, clubs can increase the amount they can spend before hitting the fair play limit.
Under Mike Ashley, Newcastle made profits and offset some expenditure through infrastructure and community projects. As a result, Maguire estimates that on the latest figures the club could spend £166m now and still stay inside the three-year limit.
But that figure will rise because there are untapped commercial opportunities at Newcastle, not least naming rights for the stadium and future deals to sponsor the kits and training ground.
Similar opportunities have long-since been maximised at other big clubs, so Newcastle has a one-off opportunity to catch-up.
Newcastle fans will be hoping the club brings in players to keep them up in January
Sponsors seemed reluctant to invest during Mike Ashley’s 14-year reign and Newcastle United
Sponsors seemed reluctant to engage with Ashley in the toxic atmosphere that surrounded him and the club during his 14-year reign on Tyneside. But that changed overnight when a consortium that includes financier Amanda Staveley, billionaire property developers Simon and David Reuben and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment fund, took over.
Analysts estimate Newcastle could rake in £100m-a-year in additional commercial income in the months ahead, despite the efforts of the majority of the Premier League clubs, who are trying to inhibit them.
Recently, 18 Premier League clubs voted to impose a one-month moratorium on clubs agreeing new commercial arrangements with firms that are linked to their owners. This is an attempt to limit investment in Newcastle from Saudi-backed firms.
All but Manchester City and Newcastle themselves voted in favour of the ban.
Several major European clubs have sponsorship deals linked to their owners. Etihad, the airline of Abu Dhabi, sponsor Manchester City’s stadium, training complex and shirts. City’s Abu Dhabi owners took control of the club in 2008.
While Newcastle fans are encouraged by the potential investment in their team, Spurs supporters are furious about what they see as a lack of spending on their squad
However, Newcastle is an attractive proposition to companies in its own right, say experts, and in the end the money will flow and Newcastle’s potential in the transfer market will expand further – up to and probably beyond £200million
‘The big difference with Manchester City is that Newcastle are genuinely a bigger club,’ said Dr Rob Wilson, a lecturer in sports business management at Sheffield Hallam University.
‘The fundamentals for Newcastle [for example, attendance and reach] are better than they were for Manchester City [at the same point].
‘New commercial deals will be signed quite quickly. Money can be brought in through the stadium and shirt sponsor, then potentially the training ground and training kit sponsors. They could earn up to £100M a year through additional commercial deals.’
Maguire agrees. ‘It’ll be interesting to see what happens between now and the January transfer window, but you would expect Newcastle to do some very good commercial deals, whoever they are with and sponsorship income will inevitably increase significantly,’ he said.
Daniel Levy has run Spurs very well from a business standpoint, but fans are frustrated
There have been protests from some Spurs fans calling for Daniel Levy and the owners to go
‘The figures show why other Premier League sides are petrified of the investment at Newcastle,’ said Maguire.
‘The way the numbers work out Newcastle could spend a lot of money on transfers and stay within the FFP limit. They are mixing it with the big boys now.’
However, it is believed Newcastle’s new owners are not intending to blow the budget in the first transfer window anyway, with a figure of £50m circulating. The club could spend that comfortably and stay within the FFP rules regardless of striking any new deals.
The analysis of FFP is based on the most recently published financial figures, mostly from 2020
So far, only Manchester United have published their 2021 accounts, so the numbers will change when the other clubs catch up, however, they give a strong indication of Premier League pecking order.
‘The numbers will change once the 2021 figures for all the clubs become available, but what we are doing is looking at the relative strength of each club’s position and we can see Newcastle become a significant player,’ said Maguire.
New chairman of Newcastle United, Yasir Al-Rumayyan and Amanda Staveley, part-owner, pictured at St James Park, are reviewing club operations before making investment decisions
Pundits and fans believe Newcastle United will need new players in defence, midfield and attack in order to survive a relegation threat this season – and money will be available
Financial position of clubs will change when the 2021 financial figures are published and some clubs, like Aston Villa, will be in a stronger position after the £100m sale of Jack Grealish
Everton’s lack of activity in the transfer market last summer is explained by their FFP position, splashing out on players like Richarlison over three years have left them up against the limit
Elsewhere, Aston Villa’s FFP position is expected to improve once the 2021 accounts are in.
Villa made a net profit in the summer 2021 transfer window of £24.5m, thanks to the sale of Jack Grealish to Manchester City for £100m, which will increase their spending power going forward.
Everton’s position at the foot of the ‘FFP Wiggle Room’ table reflects the club’s massive investment in players in the previous three years and explains the lack of activity in the market this season.
In the summer of 2021, the club made a net profit on transfers of £12.6m, but in the previous three seasons it experienced a net loss of £157.3m bringing in Allan, Ben Godfrey, Richarlison and Alex Iwobi among others.
Burnley have the potential spend of £171m within FFP rules, but that level of investment is not likely to be realised and would probably destroy the club.
‘We call these figures FFP ‘wiggle room’ because it is the amount clubs could spend overall before they hit the FFP limit,’ explained Maguire. ‘The limit is not a target, it is an allowable loss, and has to be funded by owners.’
Premier League clubs have acted to temporarily stop teams agreeing sponsorship deals linked to their owners following the Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle. City’s Abu Dhabi owners took control of the Manchester club in 2008. They struck deals with Etihad, the airline of Abu Dhabi, to sponsor City’s stadium, training complex and shirts