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Feb 4, 2009

What credit crunch?

As the dust final settles after the January transfer window slammed shut on Monday we can begin to take stock after a month of intense and at times meaningless speculation, and at first glance the news appears to be very favourable for the Premier League.

The analogy of window being slammed shut is perhaps inaccurate; closer to the truth is that the window was closed half-heartedly and left slightly open to allow in the fresh air of late transfers.

(Why, just because it snowed, were the Football Association and FIFA convinced to allow the Premier League to bend the rules and allow deals to be done beyond the 5pm deadline? Are football clubs incapable of monitoring the weather? Incomplete deals could have served as a harsh reminder that brinksmanship is not the best way to approach business. Alas, but, predictably, money has again called the shots.)

Anyway, in spite of the global recession spending by the 20 Premier League has hit a new record high, according to the number crunchers at Deloitte's Sports Business Group, whose early reports suggest that the clubs parted with £160m in the January sales.

That £160m figure, which may still increase as the final i's are dotted and t's crossed on contracts, represents a £10m increase on the 2008 January window and will be used by the Premier League to illustrate their view that its clubs somehow remain insulated from the global economic crisis.

Ahead of the transfer window few would have been surprised that Manchester City would top the spending charts come 5pm on February 2, but that Tottenham Hotspur would end the window in second place might have raised a few eyebrows.

In landing de Jong (£16m), Bellamy (£14m), Bridge (£12m) and Given (£8m) City have spent big, but fallen short of landing the marquee name their oil-rich trillionaire owners were seeking, and as a result saved the overall transfer spending from being violent skewed.

We had expected City's outlay to far exceed that of other Premier League clubs, and had they signed Kaka for £100m they would have almost doubled the overall transfer spending for the league.

But in the final analysis Tottenham basically matched City pound for pound by signing Defoe (£15.75m), Keane (£15m), Palacios (£15m) and Chimbonda (£3m).

Between them City and Spurs' spending accounted for two thirds of the total shelled-out during the window, and thereby serves to distort the health of the transfer market in the UK and as such, despite the overall record spending, can be seen as an indication that a the Premier League clubs are watching the pennies.

It is true that the Premier League remains recession proof at the moment because they know their main income, derived television rights sales, are guaranteed for this season and the next.

If the Premier League's new TV deals for the three seasons from 2010-13 fail to match the £2.7bn the clubs receive a share of for the current three-year rights period perhaps overall transfer spending records will stop being broken. Sky have this week been awarded the same four packages as they have held since 2006 but the revenue figures will not be released until the final two packages, currently held by Setanta, have been awarded.

But then, with the vast wealth at the disposal of Manchester City's owners such financial cause and effect is no longer a certainty.


The bids are in; let the back scratching begin. That's right this week FIFA's deadline expired for candidates to signal their intention to bid to host the World Cup in 2018 and/ or 2022 with 11 candidates throwing their hats into the ring.

In the frame are Australia, a joint bid from Belgium and the Netherlands, England, Indonesia, Japan, Korea Republic, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, a joint bid from Spain and Portugal, and the USA.

Although football's world governing body has yet to finalise the exact bidding process it will be a unique situation as, for the first time, a simultaneous contest for two World Cup finals will be held.

With politicking sure to feature heavily as rival bids seek to gain the support of voters across the globe, FIFA's ethics committee is expected to keep a close eye on proceedings in the hope of preventing any unfair horse-trading.

The early outsiders for a unsuccessful campaign are the two joint bids; Belgium and the Netherlands, and Spain and Portugal. Why? Well, because FIFA president Sepp Blatter has said as much, revealing last week that FIFA's preference was for solo bids.

Blatter's revelation has installed England as one of the favourites to land either 2018 or 2022. With two of the four European bids joint efforts, and as such not favoured by FIFA's top brass, Russia are being regarded as England's main continental challenge.

FIFA have previously indicated that no continent will host the both 2018 and 2022 events, meaning a Russian victory in 2018 would mean that bids from Iberia, the Low Countries and England would be discounted from hosting the 2022 event.

This process of a simultaneous bidding process creates some uncomfortable dilemmas, for example the US and Mexico are understood to favour hosting the World Cup in 2022, but must table a bid for 2018 as well. Similarly England's primary objective is 2018, but would readily accept 2022.

Japan are clearly keen to establish their credentials as a destination country for world-class sporting events; not content with bids for the 2015 Rugby World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games they have added football's World Cup in 2018 or 2022 to their ''to do list''.

Confusion surrounded Egypt who bid to host the 2010 event and were included on a FIFA shortlist of expected bidders for one of either the 2018 or 2022 events. However, Samir Zaher, the president of the Egyptian FA later insisted: ''This has no basis in truth.''

One country that had expected to bid was China, but the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper quoted an unnamed official at the Chinese Football Association as saying ''the possibility of bidding for the World Cup is zero''.

FIFA will decide on hosts for both the tournaments in December 2010.

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