The transfer windows feature lots of speculation about multimillion-euro transfer fees and megasalaries, but beyond the spotlight, the situation for many clubs in Spain, at least, is dire. (The Premier League's TV contract pretty much ensues the topflight English clubs are at least solvent in the short to medium term).
Our Valencian Community neighbors Elche, who we've developed something of a friendly rivalry with, face the very real possibility of being relegated at the end of the season for 'administrative reasons'. Elche has already been in the news as one of six Spanish clubs being investigated by the European Commission for illegal government assistance--in its case, a Valencian Community guarantee of loans used to acquire shares in the club, which are now effectively worthless.
Following on from the news that Elche players haven't been paid their wages since October, the league has now opened a "Financial Fair Play" investigation into Elche. Recall that until recent years, these sorts of investigations were meaningless, but now--at least, if you're not one of the "big clubs"--the league has begun to enforce its regulations.
Elche, along with other clubs such as Getafe, Malaga and Espanyol, are already at the top of their wage cap (that's assuming they actually pay the wages); in December the club president announced there would be a €20.5 million loan coming ot the club in early January, but it has not materialized so far. Yesterday, he claimed a €10 million 'advance loan' would arrive today so that players and staff could be paid. We shall see.
Elche already has one player, Gaby Mundingayi, who signed a contract with the club in October but has not yet been registered with the league becaue of the salary situation.
Should the loan materialize, Elche would be able to clear its overdue taxes and unpaid wages, could presumably register Mundingayi, and could probably add a loanee or two in this transfer window. Should it not, they certainly won't be able to add any players.
The players could theoretically rescind their contracts at the end of January if they haven't been paid for three months, though typically they will agree to play on in hope of some payments. But if the taxes and wages remain unpaid, the only real alternative is bankruptcy, and in that event it's pretty certain the league will relegate them. As this article explains, there is indeed one law for the rich, another for the poor--and Elche falls into the latter category.
Meanwhile, Recreativo Huelva, Spain's oldest team, is in financial difficuties as well. Its players have not been paid this season (and not all the wages were paid last season either) and have reported that to the league. And now Joselu Moreno, ex-Villarreal striker, has left the club as a result. He indicated he was owed 'significant money' from last season, hasn't been paid yet this year, and has agreed to a reduction in the amounts owed him in return for being free to seek employment elsewhere.
Recall he was found guilty of assault earlier this year--I assume he is appealing the verdict and so is free to play while that process is going on. Doubtless he's had legal bills pile up. But hearing a professional soccer player say "I haven't been paid in months, I asked for some of my wages before Christmas, but I had to borrow money instead", something is very wrong.
Recre, by the way, haven't won in 13 matches now and are just above the Segunda relegation zone; it wouldn't be surprising if the crisis off the pitch is taking its toll on the players. Joselu's departure won't help, though he's found the net only three times so far this season.
Another reminder of how the success of Spain's big clubs grabs the spotlight, but the league has shallow foundations once you look beyond that.