Imagine football without the hysteria, panic-buys and over-sensationalist headlines that dominate the game during the summer and January months. What if football fans didn’t have reason to wave and dance around obnoxiously as Sky reporters bring up-to-the-minute news on deadline day? Where would Jim White be if there was no more transfer window? The truth is, the game might be in a much healthier state if the transfer windows were scrapped and simply kept open all year—or at least for the majority of it.
Among the inflated transfer fees, the ability among many to quickly become an ‘In the know’ expert on twitter and the calls among almost all supporters for their clubs to spend lavishly on the next big thing, the transfer windows have turned football into somewhat of a joke.
Yes there would be negatives to leaving the market open for the majority of the year; teams who are looking to hold onto their best assets would struggle considerably to keep the wolves at bay for a prolonged period, much less the summer months. Players might be inclined to jump ship as soon as things start to become difficult and, equally, it would give fans an incentive to demand signings after a poor result. But why can the American leagues manage it? The aim, of course, is to cut down on ridiculous fees being spent and panic buys highlighting the shortcomings of the windows and clubs. Would clubs be as inclined to spend well over the odds if they knew they weren’t in a race against time to get deals done? The only obstacle they’d face would be the rival clubs competing for a player’s signature—something which also plays it’s part in inflated fees.
Where the NHL, for example, succeed is that they allow teams to trade players all season up until a certain point just before the playoff months. In much the same way that there is a huge build up in football for the approaching deadline day, the NHL experiences a similar rush of blood, but by no means on a similar level. Players leaving clubs on a “free transfer” are common, and the chance to acquire players opens up again almost as soon as the previous season finishes. A number of new policies have also played their part in the clamping down of high fees being spent in the NHL, but it all equates to a more sensible approach—for the most part.
Introducing Financial Fair Play and capping the amount of players that can be registered for a league season won’t do a huge deal in prompting clubs to spend less heavily when the opportunity arises; much of it comes from the fact that there is very little time to do so much—equating in £50 million purchases that backfire. In much the same way that American sports do it, the governing bodies should look to allow clubs the freedom to move and acquire players whenever they please, with a small part of the season of maybe a month or two for clubs to negotiate player contracts behind closed doors.
Much of the excitement of transfer deadline day is the not knowing whether your club’s manager or chairman are about to pull an ace of out their sleeve. It adds to the joy of seeing a new signing, and especially a star signing that may once have been out-of-reach, arrive at the club. But it doesn’t always add up to benefit the game. Almost as if people are working behind the scenes to cash in on the feverish nature of supporters who will do almost anything to pick up on the latest rumour; FIFA and UEFA need to look to ways of eradicating an aspect of the game that does very little for the model they wish to set.