After three months of intense – and mostly insane - speculation (incidentally, by my calculations Chelsea were linked with buying 39 players this summer), the transfer window finally closed at 5pm on Tuesday. From my perspective Chelsea didn’t do too badly from this summer’s window, but Tuesday’s anticlimactic day of inactivity got me thinking – why have a transfer window anyway?
I can barely remember how transfers happened before the window system was introduced but, of what I do remember, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the way they were handled. I can half see the appeal of the window – it curtails the ability of the biggest and most wealthy teams from simply buying their way out of trouble and, by implication, prevents smaller clubs from losing their best players at inopportune moments. I suppose too that the window could create excitement and drama – Tuesday’s boredom certainly wasn’t the norm.
But this is, at most, half the story.
At a fundamental level, the transfer window represents a mountainous restriction of trade that would be terrible economic practice anywhere else (just another sign that, despite what we’re told, football isn’t run as a business in the normal sense of the word). I get the sense that – as Paul Fletcher discusses in an interesting piece over on the BBC website – whilst the transfer window helps prevent an ever-widening gap between the haves and have-nots within the Premier League, it serves no such purpose in lower league football
The transfer window prevents Football League clubs from selling players and raising what could be vitally needed funds. These clubs, who might not have the benefit of large and consistent income streams, can’t be fleet of foot in responding to changing financial circumstances, which could seriously restrict their ability to either make steps forward on the pitch or steer clear of emergencies. In his article Paul Fletcher quotes Peterborough Director of football Barry Fry as saying: “To me the inability to sell one of your assets is a restraint of trade. I think it is a disgrace.”
The window has a wider impact, too. Limiting clubs to just four months of buying per year results in a form of transfer psychosis, with periods of over-intensive transfer activity. Prices are forced up as negotiating timescales are so short (we can expect prices for English players to be inflated even further in the coming years as the dual impact of the window and new rules on domestic players come into force), and it breeds panic-buying. Of course, bigger spending means higher ticket prices.
And if, as is the impact of a transfer window system, clubs are worried about not being able to respond to an injury crisis? They buy too many players (again increasing spending which gets passed onto fans), meaning that more players who could potentially be getting minutes on the pitch at a more suitable club further down the chain are sitting warming the bench. Hardly good for football clubs, players or fans.
But I guess it works well for the media. What else would they have to talk about over the summer if not whipping up a frenzy of rumour, gossip and hearsay, emblazoning ‘deadline day’ over the back pages of their newspapers and displaying countdowns on their news channels. And this is just part of the problem - as the endless speculation just adds to the mad frenzy that clubs have to deal with.
Who says having a mid-October transfer sprung on you can’t be exciting anyway? Football needs to start thinking beyond the end of its nose – scrap the window.
Think the transfer window works, or should it be scrapped? Post a comment.
You might also be interested in reading:
- No marquee signing? It’s not Chelsea that’s failing, but English football