It is a dispiriting but undeniable fact that money talks in international football. It is the reason the Premier League can afford to pay superstars to play for midtable sides, as the annual promise of a massive windfall from the TV rights to the competition allows even newly promoted clubs to offer spectacular wage packages that dwarf those of similar status teams across the continent.
In the pandemic era, however, that money is not promised, with clubs expected to reimburse broadcasters hundreds of millions of pounds over the next year, and now more than ever, cash is king. Clubs have maneuvered this issue in a number of ways: some have gone the Brexit route and simply pretended it’s not going to be an issue, others have pleaded with generous owners to loan them whatever money is needed — or cook up another outrageous sponsorship deal that will be discovered just too late to suffer any consequences for — while others still have elected shrewdly structured payment plans that ensure little money leaves the coffers just yet.
To the surprise of no-one, Liverpool fall in the latter category, snatching up Thiago and Diogo Jota last week for a total 2020 outlay of £9.5m, while picking up that exact same amount in upfront payments for Ki-Jana Hoever, and half a dozen more player expected to leave over the course of the coming weeks.
There is also a chance that recent reports on shirt sales has driven the decision to go out and spend that little bit of money. According to new kit manufacturer Nike, sales of the new home shirt are up 15% compared to last season, while this year’s third kit — a checkered black and charcoal number — has bettered last year’s effort by a whopping 30%. No word yet on the performance of the divisive aquamarine away kit.
With the Reds negotiating a lower base fee but a 20% cut on all kit sales, this is promising news, and with Nike — nearly, at least — capable of meeting demands, there’s even a chance every kit will be available throughout the season and not simply disappear in the wind before Christmas.
“We have seen record-breaking sales of kit again as we start the new season,” said Mike Cox, senior vice president of merchandising at the club. “Even higher than the sales we saw during the start of our previously most successful season last year.
“This exceeds our own high expectations and shows how our support continues to grow, particularly as our success on the pitch continues.
“Of course, this hugely significant demand has caused some operational complexities for us as we continue to operate under COVID-19 conditions,” he continued. “And it has also meant that we have sold out of some key home kit sizes.
“However, we’re working very closely with Nike on this and expect to receive a re-stock in October. We thank our supporters for their support and patience.”
One expected the number crunchers on Merseyside to have an accurate handle on the value of points on the package relative to projected kit sales, but nobody involved predicted the emergence of Covid-19, so it is perhaps surprising that sales haven’t suffered more in the current climate.
Now, if only the relevant governments would take responsibility and the necessary actions to deal with the pandemic at its root, that would be just swell.