As the January transfer window slammed shut until July, leaving clubs unable to sign and register players before next season, is it really fair to have such a limiting system when it comes to buying and selling players?
Introduced by FIFA to the Premier League for the 2002–03 season, and to the rest of the Football League in 2005, it was met with seemingly universal scepticism. Football League clubs in particular feared the restrictions on offloading players would put many of them out of business. Reeling after the collapse of ITV Digital, they still had to bite the bullet.
One of the aims of the window coming into effect was to encourage clubs to work more with what they had. In theory, with top clubs limited to buying their way to success or out of trouble and unable to splash the cash at any given moment, academy youngsters would be given more first-team action.
While smaller clubs might bemoan the limited timeframe which they have to work in to do business, the flipside of the window is that their prized assets are greater protected. Come 1st of September and February, their in-demand players aren’t going anywhere.
So if the transfer windows were brought in to promote greater financial prudence, fairness and responsibility with player acquisitions, has it worked? Bluntly, no. While increased TV revenue meant higher transfer fees were inevitable, the window has created a ‘splash and dash’ approach to buying and selling players. Think Del Boy trying to sell an all you can eat buffet to Homer Simpson that’s only open for five minutes.
As a result, with such a limited time to get deals over the line, fees go through the roof and speculation runs riot in the face of a coherent recruitment strategy. Fed up of the endless rumours about his players, Reading manager Steve Coppell even went on record in 2008 to say: “I cannot see the logic in a transfer window. It brings on a fire-sale mentality, causes unrest via the media and means clubs buy too many players.”
It would be easy to say that at least the selling club is benefiting. But what goes around comes around. If a team flogs a player for an astronomical amount, those they wish to buy players from know they have cash to burn – thus making them more inclined to hike up the fee. It’s a vicious circle.
What’s more, for better or worse, football is now very much a business as much as a sport. Is it really right for a whole industry to have one of its major areas of trade being restricted for most of the year? If rich clubs keep spending big bucks and less financially secure ones rely on the window to sell players to keep afloat, why impose such a rigid system that is yet to offer financial frugality?
One thing the transfer window has undeniably brought though is drama. And we lap it up. Deadline Day is now a fixture in the football calendar as engrained as the first game of the season or a major cup final. Journalists and reporters go from measured professionals to caffeine-fuelled town criers as they stand outside a football ground screaming a player may or may not be signing a deal. Indeed, the likes of Jim White’s yellow tie, players hurtling up the motorway to force through a deal and Harry Redknapp leaning out of his range rover to talk all things wheel and deal are now part of footballing folklore. Intentional? Not at all. Helping ramp up the marketing machine? Undoubtedly.
A rule that was brought in to improve teams’ stability has now morphed into a completely different beast. Much like the Premier League itself, it’s become bigger and more prevalent than anyone could’ve envisaged. The rumour mill isn’t going to be slowing down anytime soon.
What do you think of the transfer windows? Let us know below.