The transfer window is still wide open. In the first part of this series, we took a look into the history of how transfers began as well as the genesis and domination of the Football Association. Here in part-2 of the series, we take a look at transfers as they are today and the various factors involved in it.
The Transfer Window – Where it All Happens
A football transfer is essentially the process of transferring a player’s registration from one club to another. That time of the season when a transfer takes place is referred to as the Registration Period. Transfer window, as we know it, is just the unofficial term used in the football world. According to FIFA regulations, there are to be two mandatory transfer windows – one during the season and one between the two seasons. Various leagues have customized this mandatory rule across the globe and the length of both the transfer windows is different in most leagues. In England, the winter transfer window spans from January 1st till January 31st while the summer transfer window commences from the end of the season and lasts till August 31st. However, players can be signed on an ad-hoc basis outside of the transfer window following permission from the competition’s governing body. There are circumstances where the player would sign on for a club before the transfer window opens, but is officially a player of the buying club only when the window opens.
Where does the buck start?
The choice of buying a particular player is a culmination of various factors that play a vital role in a club’s progress. The club’s desire to move forward is what gives birth to the need for scouting and buying a player. Based on the club’s ambitions set by the board, the manager’s first job is to identify potential areas of improvement. This information is then communicated to the club’s scouts asking them to shortlist players within a certain age bracket, with certain amount of experience. The scouts’ responsibilities then increase manifold depending on where they hunt for players. Cultural differences, language barriers, ease of adaptability, fitness levels are few of the main factors that need to be considered while eyeing a player. Scouts prepare report cards, make/watch videos of the players several times before deciding that the player is what the club is looking for. Sometimes managers are more involved in this process rather than just sitting in their offices. Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger prime examples of this.
Step One – Knock Knock
Looking strictly at transfers of players under contracts, the first step that an interested club takes is to enquire about their target with the player’s current club. Only if the player’s club is interested in selling does it mark the beginning of a transfer. The selling club has the authority to reject a transfer bid no matter how big if it simply does not want to sell the player.
Such a rule has sometimes led a club to take the rogue root – referred to as Tapping Up. This is a situation where in the buying club registers interest in a player without the permission of the selling club. This is strictly illegal under FIFA’s laws but clubs still tend to carry on the practice being confident enough of keeping it under the carpet. Tapping a player can start in several ways. The manager can express his ‘admiration’ for a player through the media, one of the most powerful actors in stirring a transfer.
On the other hand, there could be an involvement of one of the most influential class of people in the world of football transfers – Agents. Agents can be the protagonists as well as antagonists when it comes to transfers. In this case of tapping a player, an agent makes contact with the buying club himself, following which, acts as a medium of information exchange between the two parties. A classic example of such a case is the transfer of Ashley Cole from Arsenal to Chelsea. It was widely publicized that the player’s agent, Jonathan Barnett met then Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and Peter Kenyon in London without the knowledge of the Arsenal management. FIFA has tried to put an end to this illicit practice but so far hasn’t managed to lay down a law stating the consequences of tapping. The last heard punishment of such an offence was the transfer ban laid on Chelsea for the illegal transfer of Gael Kakuta.
Once the selling club expresses an interest in a sale, the buying club then lodges an offer for the player. This bid can either be less than, equal to or more than the market cap of the player. From here on, the selling club’s chairman (in most cases) sits down to discuss the player’s price, the terms of agreement and possible negotiations. In tandem, the manager has to sanction the sale of the player albeit his power to veto is not always seriously considered. This is one of the reasons why we see certain managers threatening to quit the club if a certain player is sold.
Step Two – It Gets Personal
Once a fee is agreed between the two clubs, the buying club is then given permission to talk to the player in order to discuss personal terms. Here again, the agent appears as the medium of conversation between player and club. The agent’s job is to broker the best possible deal for the player and on the other hand, building a career on the rise is what matters to the player. Hence the player’s interests have to be carefully taken into consideration while negotiating terms with the buying club. Money alone doesn’t do the trick.
Several clauses can be included as part of a deal for the player. Some basic ones are image-rights, signing-on bonus, appearance bonus, bonuses if the club qualifies for a big competition such as the Champions League etc. There are several other clauses, which are custom made for the player and dictate the terms of his tenure at the club. Certain clauses also dictate the terms of a future sale of the player, sometimes stating that the current selling club will get a certain percentage of the money from the sale.
After all the discussions, once the player agrees personal terms, he has to undergo a medical with the buying club as part of the process. Any mysterious condition, if exists, will be further reviewed and depending on the gravity of the message coming from the medical, there could be altercations to the player’s terms; including the probability of the transfer falling through. However, if everything is normal, the buying club consummates the transfer by securing the signature of the player on document, which confirms his move from the current club to the buying club.
Step Three – Handing Over Documents
Once the club secures a player’s signature on paper, all the relevant documents pertaining to the transfer, starting from the fee agreement between the two clubs to the player’s personal terms and any agent related documents, are handed over to the relevant governing bodies. If there is any speculation of an illegal transfer, then these documents can be referred to as evidence.
Hence, so far we have covered the history of football transfers and the three steps involved in a football transfer. In part-3 of this series, we will take a closer look at agents, the role of the media, the Webster and the Bosman ruling.