Chelsea broke the Women’s Super League transfer record even as their men’s team sat out the January window.

While Premier League spending was down across the board to a combined £100m over the month, compared to last year’s record £815m as estimated by finance company Deloitte, an increasingly active WSL market peaked with the Blues’ move for Colombia forward Mayra Ramirez.

An initial 450,000 euros (£384,000), as stated by selling club Levante, is the English top flight’s highest ever fee – with add-ons worth 50,000 euros (£42,600) making it a potential world record in the women’s game.

Ramirez was recruited to cover for Sam Kerr’s expected season-long ACL absence while Manchester City replaced the similarly injured Jill Roord with Aston Villa’s Laura Blindkilde Brown.

With WSL sides increasingly following the lead of the men’s game in turning to the transfer market in response to injuries, Calum Ross, assistant director in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, told the PA news agency: “Player trading is a key part of any club’s business model, whether that’s in the women’s game or the men’s game.

“Obviously at the moment the values that we’re looking at are a lot more modest in the women’s game but we’d expect to see that growing in line with revenue.

“They’re all positive changes for the women’s game and it’s exciting to see that, and hopefully it does deliver the growth that it really deserves and is capable of.”

After lavish spending in recent windows, Chelsea were one of five men’s Premier League sides not to make a single January addition along with Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester United.

The slowdown has been attributed to the threat of sanctions under the league’s profit and sustainability rules, with the Toffees already docked 10 points this season – though spending over the full season still hit £2.4bn, second only to last season’s £2.7bn.

Ross said: “I think compliance with financial regulations is a key part of it.

“We’ve obviously seen the Premier League’s response to breaches of their regulations, which is heightening clubs’ awareness to comply, and it’s the first year of UEFA’s new squad cost rules for clubs participating in UEFA competitions.

“There’s other reasons as well. In the summer we saw transfers like (Jude) Bellingham, (Declan) Rice, (Harry) Kane, which then create that domino effect across the market. We’re probably seeing a moment to pause and reset after they’ve done a lot of that business in the summer.”

Only £30m was spent on deadline day on permanent moves into the Premier League, the majority of that money heading into the Sky Bet Championship as Crystal Palace signed Adam Wharton from Blackburn and Aston Villa brought in Middlesbrough’s Morgan Rogers. Radu Dragusin’s move to Tottenham for a reported £26.7m on January 11 remained the biggest of the month.

For the first time since the Chinese Super League boom of 2019, the Premier League was not the biggest global spender as Ligue 1 clubs in France splashed out 190m euros (£162m) and Brazil’s Serie A over £123m.

The Saudi Pro League was not in that bracket, spending barely £20m after its headline-making summer splurge had echoed that previously seen in China.

Jordan Henderson returned to Europe with Ajax after six months at Al-Ettifaq and other high-profile signings expressed discontent, but Ross said: “I don’t think the bubble’s starting to burst. I think it’s a similar story (to the Premier League) – they’ve invested heavily in the summer and there’s an opportunity in this window to reflect and reset.

“I certainly expect to see them back in the market in the summer, whether that’s to the same levels that we saw this summer is to be seen. It does seem there are strong business plans behind the Saudi Pro League but there obviously is a need for them to prioritise financial sustainability over the long term.”

Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City have all slipped down the rankings in the latest Deloitte Football Money League as clubs from continental Europe gained ground.

Liverpool have had the biggest fall of any club in the top 20, from third place down to seventh, after Deloitte found their revenue had dropped slightly from £594.3million to £593.8m.

Deloitte attributed that fall to the Reds’ on-field performance, with the club finishing fifth in the Premier League last season and bowing out in the Champions League last 16.

Manchester United dropped one place to fifth despite a healthier revenue figure than the season before, while treble winners City were leapfrogged by Real Madrid and now sit second, despite posting a record Premier League revenue figure in their most recent accounts.

The Money League looks at revenue figures reported in clubs’ annual accounts for the 2022-23 season and does not look at operating costs.

Tottenham and Chelsea switched places compared to last year, with Spurs up one place to eighth, while Arsenal held on to 10th position.

Real led the way with revenue of £723m in 2022-23, demonstrating the club are doing well out of European football’s current ecosystem, despite their president Florentino Perez being arguably the most staunch advocate for a Super League.

Paris St Germain enter the top three for the first time, while Barcelona moved up three places to seventh with a revenue figure of £696m.

Tim Bridge, the lead partner in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, told the PA news agency: “There is a point in time, a moment here, where you’ve got Real Madrid and Barcelona redeveloping their stadiums, they have made moves towards controlling much more of their operations, particularly merchandising and licensing, so those revenue figures are a result of direct changes they have made to their business model.

“When we look at the Premier League holistically we’re not 100 per cent certain the days of significant domestic growth in media rights is over, but what we can say is, without significant competition coming into that market, then single-figure percentage growth is the likely outcome in that domestic market. Therefore the focus is on what can be done in the international market.

“What has always underpinned the fact there have been 10 or 11 Premier League clubs in the Money League has been that the media rights growth has given them significant distributions. Other leagues have caught up and there has been a slight plateauing of Premier League rights.”

Deloitte said the top 20 clubs had earned 10.5billion euros (£9bn) collectively, a 14 per cent increase on the previous season.

Barcelona Femeni were the top-earning women’s club in the world, with revenue rising by 74 per cent to £11.6m.

Modernising Old Trafford and improving the matchday experience could help Manchester United achieve “revolutionary” growth in revenue, a football finance expert has said.

The Red Devils may have gone a decade without a Premier League title and 15 years without winning the Champions League, but commercially they remain a success story.

They dropped one place to fifth in the Deloitte Football Money League but earned a club record £648m for 2022-23, which briefly stood as a Premier League record before Manchester City announced their results for the same period in November last year.

Tim Bridge, the lead partner in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, hailed their enduring ability to generate revenue despite their on-field struggles, but believes upgrading Old Trafford could elevate them above their Premier League and European peers in commercial terms.

“What is so impressive (about United) is that resilience, that ability to continue to generate significant commercial return in the market, to find new (commercial) partners,” Bridge told the PA news agency.

“They have this way to engage with commercial partners in a way that few other clubs can.

“But you could also flip it around and also talk about what is the scale of the opportunity if they got it right. There have been a lot of reports around the current conditions at Old Trafford, there has been a lot of comparison to other football stadiums and the overall offering.

“I genuinely believe that if they had a genuine matchday offering that kept the fans in and around the stadium in the way that you have at somewhere like Tottenham, the results from a revenue perspective could be revolutionary and really outplay the rest of the competition.

“Because they still generate £100million-plus from Old Trafford and yet in experience terms, compared to what is also available on the market, or what may be available on the market from a Real Madrid or a Barcelona in the future, then the two are probably not comparable.

“So the strength of their brand, the strength of their fanbase, the loyalty is absolutely incredible and is extremely resilient and impressive.”

Ineos is set to invest 300 million US dollars (£235m) on club infrastructure after securing a 25 per cent stake in United.

Supporters have issued a number of complaints about the stadium, highlighting in particular leaks in its roof.

Clubs’ desire to avoid tough sanctions for financial rule breaches could be a big factor in the spectacular drop in Premier League transfer spending this month, a football finance expert has said.

Financial services firm Deloitte has told the PA news agency that by January 23 last year £435million had been spent by the 20 top-flight clubs – 10 times more than by the same date this year.

Spending reached a record £815m by the end of the January 2023 window, but so far this month Tottenham’s purchase of Romania defender Radu Dragusin from Genoa for a reported £26.7m is one of a small number of permanent deals to have been completed, with loan moves dominating.

The relative quiet comes following a 10-point deduction imposed on Everton in November by an independent commission for breaching the Premier League’s profitability and sustainability rules (PSR). The commission found the club had acted “irresponsibly” and concluded they “overspent”, largely on the purchase of new players.

Everton expect to learn the outcome of their appeal against that sanction by the end of next month, but were referred to an independent commission again earlier this month, along with Nottingham Forest this time, for breaching PSR in the period ending last season. Those cases should be resolved before the end of this season under a new fast-track process agreed by the clubs.

Tim Bridge, lead partner in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group, told PA: “It would be remiss not to talk about the impact (on transfer spending) of some of the regulatory moves that the Premier League has made and the independent bodies that work with the Premier League have made to really focus on how the Premier League is governed.

“You look at what’s happened with Everton, you look at what’s happened with Nottingham Forest, obviously there are ongoing investigations with other clubs as well.

“That will, I expect, have driven an underlying caution and also a real need to ensure that any value in the transfer market is as good as it possibly can be.”

Bridge did not rule out a “late flurry” of activity in the final week of the window but added: “I do think that some of those deals that maybe we’re used to seeing earlier in the window are either not being considered because of the regulatory challenge and the need to be compliant, which is a good thing, but also that element of the selling club really wanting to make sure that it drives the absolute value (of their players).”

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