Is the Transfer Window Killing English Football?

Posted on: 29 August 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

As the transfer window winds down for the summer, we discuss the effect it is having on lower league clubs.

With just days remaining in this summer’s transfer window, thousands of clubs across Europe are frantically trying to clinch a last-minute deal to snap up some much needed talent before the window slams shut.

The back pages of the local and national newspapers are filled with rumours and wild speculation while football reporters in television studios are anxiously trying to bring viewers up to speed with the latest will-he, won’t-he saga from various high-powered clubs.

Deadline Day Deals

January 2008: Jermaine Defoe from Tottenham to Portsmouth (£9m)

August 2006: Ashley Cole from Arsenal to Chelsea (£5m + William Gallas)

August 2006: Carlos Tevez & Javier Mascherano from Corinthians to West Ham (£12m)

August 2005: Michael Owen from Real Madrid to Newcastle (£16m)

August 2004: Wayne Rooney from Everton to Manchester Utd (£27m)

Many despise the transfer window and the effects it’s had on lower-league and grassroots clubs but you can’t deny it brings with it a certain element of excitement. Waiting up until midnight on deadline day to see if your club will sign that championship winning striker or even that goalkeeper needed to stop the goals flooding in at the back.

In truth, very few big name stars do exchange clubs in those final few hours but as you watch the clock ticking down to midnight you hear rumours of players checking into hotels in unfamiliar cities and grainy images appear on Sky Sports News of unheard of foreigners heading into training grounds to complete big money deals up and down the country.

Football is no longer a shadow game but instead it has taken on the role of prime-time entertainment and is quite simply a money-making machine. Deadline day epitomises the modern day game; fast, frantic, a race against time with massive budgets dwarfing those of its neighbours - a footballing thriller good enough to take centre stage in any sporting cinema.

RonaldoThis summer’s main attractions failed to materialise. Cristiano Ronaldo’s on-off transfer to Real Madrid left everyone feeling a little withdrawn and the same could be said of Gareth Barry’s proposed switch to Liverpool – all though that came a million miles closer to fruition than Ronaldo’s Madrid date.

All 20 Premier League clubs have admitted they are in the market this week looking to put the final touches to their squads and seal that missing star but looking further down the English football pyramid you will find professional clubs working through the night to pick up players - simply to make up the numbers.

The majority of Football League clubs are still dicing with death – over half recorded heavy financial losses last year and even more are perilously close to going under. Chairman are forced to sell striking sensations to fund three of four workmanlike players willing to scrap their way through a season of underachieving, clinging on to the hope of a dream money-spinning FA Cup run.

The likes of Luton Town, Bournemouth and Rotherham United are all starting this season with point’s penalties for financial discrepancies and appear to be fighting for survival already and without the added pressure of the transfer window.  Once the window shuts on Monday night, clubs cannot sell one of their players until it opens again on the 1st January which could spell disaster for a lower league club.

Kenilworth RoadThese sides struggling financially rely on selling a player and that cash injection can make a huge difference to the clubs coffers and be the pennies between survival and extinction.

Most lower league clubs are forced to survive with a small squad and often rely on the emergency loan system during the next six months. Football League clubs can have a maximum of four players under 23 and a further four players over 23 during any season on a standard loan, though no more than two of the latter can be signed from a single club. These standard loans are all done and dusted before the transfer deadline and run from window to window.

However, Football League clubs can sign players on an emergency loan for a maximum of 93 days. An emergency loan cannot happen until seven days after each transfer window has closed and are not allowed after the fourth Thursday in November during the first half of the season until the window reopens and after the fourth Thursday in March until the end of the campaign.

There is technically no limit on how many emergency loans a club can bring in but no Football League side may field more than five on-loan players in their 16-man matchday squad. Emergency loans are assessed on a case-by-case basis, though it’s sceptical to think the “emergency” is the most appropriate word used to describe them.

The frenetic activity has become part of the game, part of a managers' life. It was not like this before the end of August 2002, when the window closed for the first time in England.

The deadline had been compulsory introduced by world governing body Fifa following negotiations with European Union.

Whether the Football Association or the Football League would have voluntarily introduced the system is open to debate and it seems the emergency loan system is a way of ensuring that what has been thrust upon English football does not inflict terminal damage on the small yet historic and cherished clubs in the lower divisions.

By Mark O'Haire

Is the transfer window working or killing the game for lower league clubs? Do you enjoy the transfer window? Should Fifa allow national associations to decide on their own transfer windows? Who will your team sign?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below. Alternatively, share your thoughts with other 50connect members in the forums.

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