Player wages, transfer fees burden club finances
In a collaborative meeting held between the Ethiopian Premier League (EPL) Share Company and consulting firm Face Corner, a multidisciplinary assessment study and growth strategy for club licensing, club ownership, and player salaries within the league were discussed.
The multilayered evaluation revealed deep concerns regarding unsustainable transfer outlays and inflated player wages across EPL clubs, in addition to transfer of foreign players harming youth development.
Surprisingly, despite acknowledgment of these issues, clubs have continued rampant spending during transfer windows, allocating exorbitant sums that strain club finances without clear benefits on the pitch.
The 16 EPL clubs actively engaged in acquiring foreign players. As per data from the Ethiopian Football Federation (EFF), a staggering total of 19 new foreign players have been signed by EPL clubs this season. Notably, prior to this season, 18 foreign players were already a part of the squads of these 16 participating clubs.
Most of the clubs have assembled squads consisting of two or more foreign players. A poignant reminder of the past reveals that the EFF had previously amended the rule, reducing the number of foreign player signings from five to three per club.
However, amidst the excitement surrounding these foreign signings, valid criticism has emerged, accusing the clubs of prioritizing international talent over the development of local youth.
Data provided by the EFF shows that a majority of the clubs have also directed their attention towards signing foreign goalkeepers. This further accentuates the existing challenges faced by most EPL clubs in terms of their infrastructure, budgetary constraints, and the development of young players. Consequently, the continuous influx of foreign players is deemed detrimental to the progress of Ethiopian football.
A glaring example of this issue can be observed in the struggles faced by the Ethiopian national team, known as the Walias, during their continental participation, according to the experts at the meeting. The team has been plagued by a shortage of competent goalkeepers and strikers, resulting in their premature exits from African Cup and World Cup qualifiers. Regrettably, the domestic clubs participating in the leagues have failed to address this pressing concern.
Tewodros Takele, a sports journalist for Soccer Ethiopia, shared his insights on the matter, stating, “Most Ethiopian Premier League clubs have made it a habit to prioritize the signing of foreign goalkeepers and strikers. This practice has hindered the progress of young talents.” Consequently, domestic players who have lost hope find themselves confined to the bench, squandering their valuable time, he says.
Furthermore, it is widely believed that the majority of foreign players who join the clubs do not exhibit exceptional skills.
Tewodros further explains, “With the exception of St. George and Dire Dawa football clubs, it is challenging to assert that all the clubs that succeeded in the league last season did so solely due to the inclusion of foreign players.”
The newly promoted Hambericho Durame, alongside Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) and Shashemene City, have made one, three and three foreign signings, respectively, adding an international flair to their squad.
Clubs welcomed talent from diverse nations such as Senegal, Mali, Uganda, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Eritrea, Nigeria, and even the United States.
Within the EPL, where top players command significant transfer fees, regional clubs have begun offering substantial monthly salaries of 630,000 birr to individual players. Calculations reveal that over a span of two seasons, a player stands to earn a staggering 15.1 million birr, highlighting the financial commitment that clubs are willing to make to secure a player.
When considering the overall expenditure of clubs in the league, including those dependent on government budgets, data indicates that up to 130 million birr is spent in a single season. Clubs based in different cities face substantial financial expenses.
However, despite these investments, it appears that unnecessary expenses continue to burden Ethiopian football. The sport, which has struggled to make significant strides, finds itself in dire need of reforms.
During the recent fifth regular and third emergency general assembly of the EPL Share Company, concerns were raised regarding fraudulent activities and mismanagement within the league clubs.
Kifle Seife, the general manager of the EPL Share Company, expressed disappointment in the lack of focus on improving football skills and highlighted the prevalence of fraudulent practices among club administrators.
The Share Company convened coaches and team leaders from all clubs to address these issues and sternly warned against any repetition of such incidents.
Fikade Mamo (Lt.), president of the Share Company, stressed the disconnect between inflated player salaries and the lack of tangible progress seen on the field.
Many experts agree that the Share Company must play a pivotal role in implementing strict measures and adhering to research-backed mandatory regulations.