The new English Premier League (EPL) football season is still a month away but a flurry of transfer activities has already made it one of the busiest summers ever .
That is because the clubs have extra incentive to stay up this time round after the Premier League sold the television rights to its games for a record £5.136 billion (S$10.82 billion), a 70 per cent increase from the previous £3.018 billion deal. The new deal will run for three years from next year.
This means the clubs are in for a bumper pay day in 2017, with even the bottom-placed club set to take home £99 million. In contrast, Queens Park Rangers, who were 20th last season, earned £61.95 million based on live TV money, league position and share of TV deal.
With cheque books waved, agents working overtime and plenty of wheeling and dealing in motion, Everton manager Roberto Martinez did not mince his words on what the huge volume of business means for the competition.
"If you want a competitive league, this will be one of the most (competitive) since the start of the Barclays (Premier League)," the Spaniard said yesterday afternoon at a Barclays Asia Trophy press conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
Premier League cannot control TV package price
Chief executive Richard Scudamore says the Premier League has no power to control the pricing of English Premier League (EPL) television packages for fans in Singapore.
Last season, fans were charged $59.90 a month to watch the EPL on SingTel mioTV or StarHub.
That raised their ire as the previous deal cost just $34.90, and came with Champions League and other sports content.
"In the UK and around the world, the Premier League will never get involved in the retail pricing of its offerings," Scudamore said yesterday on the sidelines of the Premier Skills Community Festival at Jalan Besar Stadium. "We sell our rights in over 200 countries, and whoever buys them is because they have the ability to market those rights in a way which works for them."
"A major aspect of the campaign is the new television deal. It is creating an extra focus for teams to look a little more forward and hoping to get the jackpot when the new TV deal arrives.
"This will separate a lot of clubs."
A year ago, the summer transfer window hit a record level with £835 million spent on players. With EPL clubs having until the end of August to finalise their rosters, there is a strong likelihood that a new high could be set as clubs invest in major improvements in the hope of reaping a windfall later.
At the top of the table, Manchester United reinforced their midfield with Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger and France midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin.
Manchester City spent £49 million to lure Raheem Sterling from Liverpool. The Reds, in turn, moved in early to capture Brazil international Roberto Firmino. Arsenal acquired goalkeeper Petr Cech from Chelsea while the Blues' attack now sports Radamel Falcao.
Even mid-table outfits Everton and Stoke City have raided the market early, with midfielders Gerard Deulofeu and Tom Cleverley arriving at Goodison Park while Shay Given, Glen Johnson and Marco van Ginkel will be parading their skills at the Britannia Stadium.
The Potters' recent clout in the transfer market also saw them sign ex-Barcelona players Marc Muniesa and Bojan Krkic last season and enquire about the services of Inter Milan attacker Xherdan Shaqiri.
Manager Mark Hughes feels the outlay is vital if Stoke, who were ninth last term, are to remain competitive in the top flight.
He said: "It's a challenge because we have got two (consecutive) top-10 finishes. We would like to better that.
"It's a very important year for the Premier League. There is a big TV deal so more teams have invested in their playing groups and we need to maintain our position. If we can, ideally we'd like to push higher, and who knows we may push through to Europe. That's our aim and intention for the future."
But Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger prefers not to read too much into the situation.
The Frenchman said: "It's difficult to know but the Premier League is very strong and I believe no matter how much money you put into the market, the number of good players will not improve.
"The consequence of that is just that the players will be better paid.
"It's not bad (for the players) but it will not necessarily improve the number of good players."
BARCLAYS ASIA TROPHY
Everton v Stoke City (6pm), Arsenal v Singapore Select XI (8.30pm), Singtel TV Ch102