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COVID-19 and Brexit's impact felt in the January transfer window

In an already unprecedented season of football, the January transfer window only added to a growing list of elements suffering from the impact of the new world we find ourselves in, including Brexit and COVID-19.

COVID-19 and Brexit's impact felt in the January transfer window

In the Premier League, clubs spent just £84.2 million in total on deals for new players, with the biggest deal, Manchester United's Amad Diallo taking up a quarter of that total, being agreed with Atalanta at the end of the last years summer transfer window. This represented the lowest total spend by Premier League clubs since January 2010 (£36.7 million).

One of the biggest differences compared to other windows is the fall in permanent signings made, which totalled just 12. Even in the 2010 January transfer window, there were 27 permanent signings. During a financially crippling time, it appears that clubs were hesitant to spend confidently, opting for loan signings instead to see them through for the remainder of the season.

Compared to last January's spend of £230 million and the £430 million record January spend in 2018, it is evident that Premier League clubs are feeling the impact of two new changes to the 2020/21 season - Brexit and the financial implications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This season, football clubs have been unable to retrieve some of their biggest revenue streams, something which can be directly attributed to the coronavirus crisis, including gate receipts and broadcasting deals, that were partly repaid at the end of last season following its disruption.

However, there is a suggestion to be made that the biggest cause for transfer inactivity in this window comes from the government's new post-Brexit immigration guidelines, adding another layer of complexity in making signings from the European Union (EU). There is no longer free movement of labour from the EU, meaning players from overseas must become the subject of a points-based system, that considers senior and youth international appearances, their club appearances as well as the quality of the selling club, its league position and the league itself.

Diallo's transfer to Manchester United is an example of a deal that was scrutinised under the new rules. Despite having an Italian passport, United had to go through the points system to secure a work permit for their newly acquired young talent.

“I have found three players already who were capable of coming here and they’re not allowed," were the words of West Bromwich Albion manager Sam Allardyce.

"Due to the new regulations they were unable to come to this country, whereas they would have done. I have to look at that and think, ‘Can he qualify?’

“It’s not so much the pandemic, it’s the change of rules because of Brexit.”

The January transfer window is known for being a difficult market to operate in, with clubs reluctant to sell players for reasonable prices during the middle of the season. The 2021 summer transfer window will likely be an interesting one to see how clubs adapt to the losses in revenue and the continued interference of Brexit.

Author: Jake Wilkin

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