Football, table top, gameIs It Time For A Football Transfer Revolution?

As the 2017 summer window slammed shut at 11pm last night, a record £1.47 billion had been spent by Britain’s top flight clubs to secure new talent for the upcoming campaign.

Given many Premier League managers have arguably grown tired of the drawn out transfer sagas that are common place during the summer window, this article asks: is it time for a change?

Some of the summer’s most anticipated transfers failed to materialise chiefly Alexis Sanchez’s switch from the Emirates to the Etihad and Philippe Coutinho’s move from Liverpool to Barcelona (at the time of writing Spain’s transfer window remains open for a further seven hours) and no Deadline Day would be complete without unlikely new arrivals such as Fernando Lorente at Tottenham or Danny Drinkwater’s £35 million transfer to Stamford Bridge.

However, in less than a week’s time the Transfer Window circus will roll into London, as those in charge of the world’s richest league meet in the capital to discuss a blueprint for change which would end domestic player movement before the start of the season.

It is believed that the majority of Premier League chairmen are in favour of a deadline preventing all 20 clubs from bringing players in once the season has begun, yet it is not certain that 14 clubs (two-thirds majority threshold) will vote in favour of such a restriction.

Should support for the change be achieved on the 7th September the transfer limitation could be implemented as early as next summer subject to FIFA approval. Nevertheless this new restriction (typically the second Friday in August) would not be automatically applicable to English Football League clubs which will have to vote on the issue (due to be tabled at a meeting in late September, subject to the Premier League outcome).

Many Premier League managers are tired of the impact of a length summer transfer window can have upon their team nearly a month into a campaign. Swansea City manager, Paul Clement summed up the general touchline consensus on the 12th August 2017 stating:

“There’s frustration here and I’m sure Southampton are frustrated, too. I think if the window is shut before the season starts, everything is sorted out and we can get on with the football.”

FIFA Regulations

Whether FIFA would even allow the changes to be brought about remains to be seen but it is highly probable that with Premier League and FA blessing Infantino’s organisation would have little choice but to accept an earlier close of the summer window in the UK.

Under the current regulations players may only be registered during one of two registration periods. The summer and January transfer windows are fixed in Europe by each national association. The summer window starts once the previous season has finished and does not exceed 3 calendar months; the second mid-season window in January must not exceed 1 month.

In terms of the Premier League, FIFA’s current regulations state that the summer transfer window should close no later than 1st September – or as close to this date if it clashes with a weekend. Yet as various leagues around the world commence and end at different times, so do their transfer windows. Whilst global standardisation of the all leagues dates has been the topic of discussion for many years, weather factors have always prevailed. As an example, the MLS’ (USA) first window began on 14th February this year and ended on 8th May, while China’s primary registration period ran from 1st January to 28th February.

Summer Transfer Statistics

According to research by Bwin seven of the top 10 deals involving Premier League clubs in the past five seasons were completed after the first game of the league campaign:

  1. Gareth Bale (85.3m – 2013) to Real Madrid.
  2. Angel di Maria (£85.3m – 2013) to Manchester United.
  3. Anthony Martial (£85.3m – 2015) to Manchester United.
  4. Kevin de Bruyne (£55m – 2015) to Manchester City.
  5. Nicolas Otamendi (£32m – 2015) to Manchester City.
  6. Mesut Ozil (£42.4m – 2013) to Arsenal.
  7. Shkodran Mustafi (£35m – 2016) to Arsenal.

The Premier League in the previous five seasons has made 24% of its signings after 15th August, with 12% of its signings being made on the 31st August alone.

European Transfer Timing

Europe’s major leagues all start at different points.

As the Ligue 1 (France) season commenced a week before the Premier League campaign, La Liga (Spain), Serie A (Italy) and Bundesliga (Germany) – all commencing their seasons a week after the Premier League – would FIFA even be able to implement a European-wide change?

Clearly if the means to address the above cannot be adopted, the proposed changes have the potential to put England’s top-flight teams at a severe disadvantage on two fronts:

  1. Big European clubs such as PSG, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich with their own later transfer window closure dates would effectively be able to take players from English clubs (potentially until the second week in September). This would undoubtedly boost both their competitiveness in European club competitions, and their ability to win the race for commercial assets in order to enhance off-the-pitch revenue streams as a result of big name signings.
  2. Under the proposed changes, English clubs losing players during this period after the domestic window had closed would therefore not be able to reinvest the transfer funds and bring in reinforcements until January.

Whatever the outcome on the 7th September 2017, change appears to be imminent in the player transfer market. With only 122 days to go until the Transfer Window reopens again most fans may already be eagerly awaiting to discover who their club’s next high profile acquisition is likely to be.

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