Records smashed as football clubs spend big

As the football transfer window ends, some clubs have spent millions on new players. Money might buy success, but is it fair?

For Liverpool fan Shaun McCormack, it was the perfect Christmas present. For a small fee, the 36-year-old father of four changed his name to 'Fernando Torres', after his football hero.

Shaun's wife thought the name change was hilarious. Now, however, the joke's on him. On Sunday, the last day of the UK's football transfer window, the real Fernando Torres moved, for a record-breaking £50m fee, from Liverpool Football Club to their rivals Chelsea. Shaun's new namesake now plays for the wrong team.

Torres' transfer was the biggest of a window that initially promised to be uneventful. With the world still recovering from recession, surely no one would splash out millions on a football player, however talented?

But the billionaires who own some of Britain's football clubs had other ideas. Roman Abramovich, Chelsea's owner, was willing to spend £76.5m on new players to freshen up his ageing team.

Meanwhile, Liverpool have used their newly acquired wealth to make some purchases of their own. Striker Luis Suarez arrived from the Dutch club Ajax for a fee of £22.8m. But the biggest news was a £35m deal for Newcastle striker Andy Carroll.

Carroll is 22 years old and has only played half a season in English football's top league.

Now, this latest transfer makes him the most expensive English player in the history of the game.

It's not the first time British clubs have broken the bank to try to attract new talent. Recently, Manchester City, which is owned by wealthy Middle Eastern backers, has been making waves with its extravagant purchases. Since 2008, hundreds of millions have been spent on player transfers, bringing in some of the football world's greatest stars.

And spending does bring success. City are now third in the league, having languished around the middle of the table for years. Before them, Chelsea successfully bought their way to glory, and on this week's evidence, they may be set to do so again.

Silly money
But is this lavish spending a form of cheating? Most clubs have to rely on what they can earn from fans, while a few, with billionaire backers, can buy up all the available talent.

Michel Platini, the head of football's European governing body, wants to bring in new rules to prevent excessive spending and promote 'financial fair play.'

Wealthy clubs, on the other hand, say they shouldn't be penalised for having generous owners.

You Decide

  1. If you were a tycoon with £50 million to spare, what would you spend it on? A footballer? A giant TV? A new homeless shelter?
  2. In football – or any other sport – is winning more important than anything else?

Activities

  1. Imagine you were a footballer who'd just been signed for £50 million. How would you feel? Write a letter to your family explaining your feelings ahead of your first match at the new club.
  2. Do some research to find out the costs and revenues of a football club, then produce a budget plan. How would you make a club turn a profit?

Some People Say...

“Footballers shouldn't be paid to play games all day. Why don't they get proper jobs?”

What do you think?

Q & A

Why do football clubs 'buy' players? Surely players can play for who they like?
The problem is that players sign contracts with clubs, promising to play for a certain number of years. If they leave before the contract finishes, clubs get paid compensation. So clubs aren't buying players, they're buying contracts.
And how can a player possibly be worth £50 million?
There's a lot of money in football. Millions of fans pay to watch matches or tune in on TV. And clubs can sign lucrative advertising deals to display company names on team shirts or stadiums. Better players bring in more fans and more income.
But £50 million! They must be making a lot of profit?
Actually no. Many clubs are spending much more than they earn. But clubs often borrow money from wealthy owners who have other sources of income.

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