Clubs’ economic difficulties and speculation in the transfer market go hand in hand
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The fourth edition of the CIES Football Observatory’s Demographic Study is now available. It is an annual publication destined for anyone who wishes to acquire a scientific understanding of the European football players’ labour market.

The study presents the dynamics at work in 33 top division leagues of UEFA member associations (500 clubs, 12,410 players). Market trends are first measured at European level and then analysed according to national championships. A section presents the most fielded U21 players since the start of the season per league and position.

Since 2008, European clubs have never recruited as many new players as for the current season (10 signings per team on average, up 16.6 per cent compared to 2009). This shows that in the context of economic turmoil, European clubs tend more than ever to adopt short-term policies by speculating on the transfer market instead of setting up sustainable squad management strategies.

The increase in the power of third-party ownership throughout Europe will probably further reinforce this trend. From this perspective, the coming into force of UEFA’s financial fair-play rules is absolutely necessary to push clubs to behave in a more responsible manner. At league level, a key insight of our study is the rapid changes occurring in the Russian top division championship, whose clubs are challenging more than ever those in the five major European championships.

Since 2009, the percentage of active internationals in Russia has progressed by 17 per cent, from 11.6 to 28.6 per cent. Footballers having played for a national A-team in 2011 represent a greater proportion of players in Russia than in France (25.8 per cent), Italy (25.1 per cent) and Spain (23.0 per cent). Only levels in England (41.2 per cent) and Germany (33.3 per cent) are still higher than in Russia.

Other exclusive findings may be downloaded from the CIES Football Observatory, linked on the right.