An Insight Into the World of Football Transfers: Part III

I delayed the publication of this post for a few days, as the Premier League clubs in England voted in favour of the early closure of the football transfer window. This is an important development which ties in perfectly with the theme of the present post. The deadline of a football transfer window is always complicated and controversial, particularly when there is evidence that negotiations, as a matter of fact, take place until the very last minute of the transfer period. 

You may read the two previous Parts of the analysis here (http://lawtop20.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/an-insight-into-world-of-football.html?view=magazine and http://lawtop20.blogspot.co.uk/2017/07/an-insight-into-world-of-football.html?view=magazine). The analysis regarding the present post focuses on the actual transfer deadline and the reasons behind the attempts of several football clubs, to ensure they obtain the agreement of the selling club, until the very last minute of the football transfer window. I am convinced you are familiar with many stories seeing the daylight of the journalistic world of information and I am also certain you have your own views as to whether such information could be corroborated. Very few pieces of information, however, can be disclosed to the public and the work done behind closed doors remains one of the most fascinating aspects in the work of a football intermediary. Such work usually deserves praise; other times it is to be loathed. But the result of negotiations behind closed doors, determines, to a certain extent, not only the future existence of the balance sheet of a football club, but also whether the well designed transfer and recruitment plan of a football manager can be safely executed.

There are several reasons as to why many football clubs continue to negotiate on a football transfer until the very last minute. One would argue that the buying club has left it too late on the day and, therefore, it should accept the consequences if it is unsuccessful. From my experience, there are very few clubs without a proper recruitment plan which can be executed immediately. This is certainly not the case with premier league clubs, where recruitment, as a matter of fact, never stops. There may only be two transfer windows in one football season in Europe, but negotiations continue throughout such football season and there is always some kind of information floating about on the web. Sometimes, people read in the papers that there is a 'gentleman's agreement' between two football clubs or between a club and a player. For the sake of clarity, such statement relates only to a verbal discussion between (for example) two CEOs (say in November) that the availability of a player in question is a matter for future negotiations (say in May). This discussion does not give rise to any binding agreement, which could later be enforced. Nor such statement means that the player is for sale or he will be sold to that specific club with the enquiry. It is simply an indication that the selling club could do business. 

In the premises, it is submitted that the situation described in the previous paragraph could be misinterpreted by those who think they know the reliability of the information. For example, we witnessed in the most recent football transfer window the saga of a London based star player, who, reportedly, wanted to terminate his contractual obligations with his employer. You were convinced, by many people, that this player was going to end up in the red part of a northern English city. You were also told by the undersigned that such transfer was extremely difficult and it was also highly unlikely it was going to materialise. Not only because the, allegedly buying club, may have this specific position filled and covered, but also because any hypothetical negotiations may have stopped at the stage of enquiry. 

In the same light, people also need to appreciate that the football transfer of a specific star player can never be a simple matter, particularly when the selling and buying clubs are competitors at the highest level and constantly challenge for honours. Even if the buying club genuinely wants to buy, the selling club (if it is a competitor) may want to extract the highest price and inflict the biggest damage by delaying the process. Hence, the experience of a negotiator suggests that the buying club must never appear to be too eager and too desperate. In the premises, a delayed and protracted transfer may have a more substantial reason behind it. Put it simply, the selling club is trying to identify and acquire an equal, if not better, replacement. 

Negotiations that continue until the very last minute of the prescribed deadline, usually tend to fail, particularly for the reasons explained above. Hence, there is a compelling justification for the early closure of a transfer window in England and it is probably a positive step forward. There are advantages and disadvantages with such decision, but in the long run, it is highly likely it will prove beneficial to all English premier league clubs. Things can never be that simple, but one may find a positive and prudent justification in the argument that if you can buy a player in August, you can certainly acquire the same player in June or July. 

Finally, such is the complexity of the transfer of a football player that, sometimes, untruths, misinterpretations and misstatements appear in the Press. The secrets of the trade are many and the reasons, for leaking information to the Press, even more and greater. From experience, people need to keep an open mind and wait for the actual announcement and confirmation of the successful deal. Although football fans are eager and anxious to know what takes place behind closed doors, no successful negotiation can ever take place if such doors decide to open themselves to the public. Patience and prudence offer the best counsel and they reward in the long run.

Dr Gregory Ioannidis*

9 September 2017

* Dr Gregory Ioannidis is a sports lawyer and an anti-doping litigation expert. He is a former The FA registered lawyer and has acted for and represented many players and clubs around Europe, Africa and Asia. He is currently the Course Leader of the Master's Programme LLM International Sports Law in Practice at Sheffield Hallam University and an academic associate at Kings Chambers in Manchester.



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