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Exeter City shocked as tribunal sets lower fee for Ethan Ampadu than Chelsea offered

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Well that didn’t quite work out for Exeter

Chelsea U21 v Oxford United - Checkatrade Trophy Photo by Harry Murphy/Getty Images

Exeter City were expecting to receive a fair few millions in compensation for Ethan Ampadu, who left them to join Chelsea this past summer and has since not only made his Premier League debut but has become a full fledged Wales international as well. At 17. Clearly, the future looks quite bright for the wonderfully coiffed youngster, and the League Two side were understandably thinking that they would blow their previous record sale, a £1.8m transaction with Brentford for strike Ollie Watkins, out of the water.

Chelsea offered £3m, almost twice as much, but they held out for more. And so the matter went to tribunal, which is neither a transparent nor a quick process. Things finally started moving — it’s perhaps no coincidence that the Buck letter came to light recently — and the actual tribunal hearing was held earlier this week, with a decision coming down a bit faster than the original month it was projected to take.

As reported by the BBC and and everyone else, the fee the tribunal has set is £2.5m, which is obviously less than the £3m, and is even more “paltry” once it breaks down to £1.3m guaranteed and the rest coming only in add-ons.

Oops.

While Ampadu will surely hit whatever those add-ons are once he recovers from his broken ankle, the fee is a bit of a slap in the face for Exeter. There is also a 20 per cent sell-on clause, but their disappointment remains palpable.

“Whilst the club recognise that the compensation fee is not a transfer fee, but instead to reward the club for its investment in the training and development of a proven outstanding player, and that the tribunal has awarded Exeter significant contingent sums, to say that we are disappointed is an understatement.”

“We are disappointed for our fans, our academy, which works so hard on producing talented young players like Ethan, and for our management and coaching team who bring these players into the first team and beyond as part of supporting the work of the Football Association in its objective to produce international players of the highest quality which we believe we have done.”

“However, above all, we are disappointed for football as we feel this decision sends the wrong message in terms of financial reward for those owners, chairmen, managers and coaches up and down the country who are also working as hard as us to improve their clubs by producing talented home-grown players for both club and country.”

-Julian Tagg, Exeter City chairman; Source: BBC

I’m not entirely sure I buy the holistic argument — Chelsea being the personification of evil in football is a nice throwback though — as these tribunals don’t seem to follow any obvious pattern in setting compensation fees. That said, two transfers that come immediately to mind have resulted in tribunal mandated fees well below what the “selling” team had been hoping for (maybe that’s why they come to mind?). Chelsea paid £6.5m (£3.5m+£3m) for Daniel Sturridge when Manchester City were hoping for £10m in 2010. Liverpool paid £8m (£6.5m+£1.5m) for Danny Ings when Burnley were hoping for £12m a couple years ago. Maybe the lesson is to not rely on tribunals in the future and negotiate your own deal?

Exeter’s “loss” is Chelsea’s “gain”, though the price savings isn’t going to make much impact on the books. For Exeter, the opposite is true, which is indeed unfortunate.