The EFL will review the transfer of Hassane Kamara from Watford to Udinese to ensure the fee was not inflated, i can reveal.
The defender was signed by Watford from Nice for £3.6m in January 2022 and was sold to Udinese for £16.9m eight months later in the summer transfer window. He was then immediately loaned back to Watford and has played 26 of their 35 Championship games this season.
The transfer has raised eyebrows at rival Championship clubs particularly due to the fact the Pozzo family own both Watford and Serie A side Udinese. The family were one of the first groups to adopt a multi-club ownership system that has grown in popularity in recent years.
Alongside buying Watford, in 2012, and Udinese, a club they have owned since 1986, the family owned Spanish club Granada from 2009 and 2016, before selling to Jiang Lizhang, a Chinese businessman.
Rival clubs are concerned that the series of transfers of Kamara, a 29-year-old who has seven caps for Ivory Coast, are a way of circumventing financial regulations and give Watford an unfair advantage.
i understands that EFL financial inspectors, who work in the Club Reporting Financial Unit, will review the transfer, as it is between two clubs under the same ownership, to ensure that the fee has not been inflated as a way to pump more money into the club.
Given the £16.9m transfer from Watford to Udinese occurred last summer, it is likely to be looked at when this year’s financial accounts are assessed.
Should the transfer not be deemed to be “fair market value” the figure in Watford’s accounts will be adjusted to reflect what is determined to be the true value. If this is the case, Watford will also have to pay the costs for the EFL to have a third-party devise the valuation.
It is still unclear if selling a player to a club under the same ownership structure then loaning the player straight back can be prevented.
Watford declined to comment.
The club are currently 10th in the Championship table, but only four points outside the play-off places, and are aiming for promotion straight back to the Premier League following relegation from the top-flight last season.
They sacked Slaven Bilic this week after only five months as manager and immediately replaced him with Chris Wilder, hoping that a new head coach will “re-energise” a promotion push, technical director Ben Manga said.
The rise of the multi-club model
Manchester City owners, the City Football Group, are one of the pioneers of the multi-club ownership model and have either full ownership or small stakes in 12 clubs in countries around the world. Newcastle United co-owner Amanda Staveley recently revealed that they are exploring multi-club ownership to benefit the Tyneside club.
“We’re looking at everything in terms of how we grow Newcastle, how we grow our brand, how we grow our club,” she told the Financial Times’ Business of Football Summit.
“An opportunity to buy players affordably well, early in the cycle, is critical to our growth. We’re very focused on our academy and young players at the moment.”
Newcastle are majority owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is thought to be worth more than £500bn.
“Obviously we’ve looked at multi-club,” Staveley added. “Whenever you look at multi-club, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right fit.
“It’s complicated and we’re also looking at another structure, maybe something a little bit different that gives us more opportunity to work with a lot more clubs (without buying stakes in them). That’s at a quite early stage, so we’re just looking. I think anybody who is looking to buy any club is going to be looking at that multi-club model.”
Stephen Pagliuca, a senior adviser at Bain Capital which controls an investment fund worth £133bn, is co-owner of Italian side Atalanta and failed in an attempt to purchase Chelsea last year.
He said: “In football it’s a unique opportunity where you can own clubs in multiple markets as long as they don’t compete and there are synergies between those clubs, in terms of player development and player training and coaches and medical staff and all those kinds of things, marketing and ticketing.
“If we find the right opportunity at a club in a different division in a different market that fits with the Atalanta brand and one we think we can improve we’ll make that investment.”