World Football Transfer Window: A Few Alternatives to the Current Format

Sean BabcockCorrespondent IISeptember 2, 2011

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JULY 27:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter speaks to the media at a press conference ahead of the Preliminary Draw of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on July 27, 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

As another transfer window comes to an end, another debate rages on about the effectiveness of the current transfer window format.

In previous post-window debates, Premier League officials have insisted that there are no realistic alternatives to the system that exists today, citing the format as the "least worst" option available.

Yet, in the days following nearly every recent window, discussions focusing on possible transfer window improvements seem to be all around, with everybody seemingly interested in voicing their suggestions.

Let's discuss a few of those alternatives, with the first being:

Eliminate Transfer Windows Altogether

While most of the options on this list involve altering the parameters of the transfer windows already in place, there are still plenty of people who insist that eliminating the notion altogether would be best for the game.

Former Manchester United midfielder Steve Coppell is one of those people.

"I cannot see the logic in a transfer window," he was quoted saying during his reign as Reading manager in 2008. "It brings on a fire-sale mentality, causes unrest via the media and means clubs buy too many players."

Coppell has been one of the most outspoken figures in calling for the end of the transfer window formula, citing the system's knack for breeding desperate moves and "scurrilous inquiries" as clubs rush to finalize deals before the deadline.

The idea is that every club would have the option of buying or selling players throughout the duration of the season according to their needs, eliminating the last-minute flurry of activity that comes on every deadline day. Clubs will no longer be forced to overpay in the final hours to get what they need or to make questionable choices under pressure.

Said Coppell, "The old system, where if you had a problem you could look at loans or make a short-term purchase, was far better than this system we have at the moment."

There is, of course, one glaring miscalculation in his assessment, which is the fact that no matter how much time a club has to assess their needs and identify weaknesses, there's not exactly much hope of every club somehow finding a way to make their squad infallible.

In the end, the wealthiest clubs are still going to have an advantage, except even more so with the option of buying players to fill their gaps at a moment's notice whenever it is needed.

As for the small clubs, instead of fending off intense pressure to sell their best talent for a few months out of the year, they'll be forced to face that pressure in every waking moment.

Eliminate the January Transfer Window

After the 2011 January transfer window, the League Managers Association in England voiced their support of the notion of eliminating the mid-season window, with representatives of the Premier League, the Football Association, and the Professional Footballers' Association all rumored to agree.

The objections to the January transfer window followed a record-breaking series of moves totaling about £225 million as clubs rushed to fix the problems that haunted them in the first few months of the season and allegedly vastly overpaid to make it happen.

Notable moves in that time included Fernando Torres to Chelsea, Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez to Liverpool, and Edin Dzeko to Manchester City. In each of these situations, the club in question ended up thoroughly improving their position in the standings (although, there's some debate as to whether or not Torres really played a role in Chelsea's improvement).

While this certainly seems to add weight to the idea that the structure of the January transfer window only serves to maintain the status quo of wealthy clubs finishing high on the table, the concern regarding overall transfer fee inflation (which can be devastating for smaller sides) with a short deadline on the horizon is just as valid.

For example, when Wolfsburg originally bought Dzeko in 2007, the signing only cost them £4 million. Suarez was only £6.4 million when Ajax brought him to the club in 2008. But when two of the richest clubs in England wanted these players in January, they went for £27 million and £23 million respectively.

And the rest of that record-breaking £225 million spent in January? It was almost exclusively spent by the four Premier League clubs with the most money.  

End the Summer Window Before the New Season

The idea here is that the January transfer window, minus its faults, is the built-in system for allowing clubs to identify their needs and make changes accordingly. That's one of the reasons that proponents of the movement to close the summer window before the new season begins support the idea.

Under the current format, Europe's top leagues all start at different points in time, creating a variance in the amount of data that clubs in each league have available to them for identifying their needs at the end of the window.

While altering those starting dates to coincide with each other would eliminate some of the variance in the reliability of late summer transfers throughout Europe, another solution is to simply not have any late summer transfers. At least none that allow clubs to utilize the advantage of knowing what they need.

It certainly seems to lack a certain element of tidiness, when you think about it: spending all summer filling your squad's gaps and then taking the end product for a competitive test drive to see what's still missing.

Isn't that what training is for? Isn't that what the preseason is for?

In some ways, the system resembles writing a letter of questionable content and having the option of knowing exactly how the recipient is going to react before hitting send.

If we're going to allow clubs to make changes during their domestic seasons, then maybe one opportunity during the year is enough. Why provide that option for one month in the middle and varying points at the beginning of each league?

A variation of this idea would be to end the window before the beginning of the season while also eliminating the January transfer window: giving the clubs no opportunity to make amends on the final outcomes of their summer bidding.

To some, this idea is particularly appealing, since it forces each side to live with the decisions they made in the offseason, for better or worse, eliminating any advantage larger clubs might have midway through when they suddenly have the option of buying their way back into contention.

Even the big clubs have a way of sometimes screwing up their summer transfers and falling down the table in the early months of a new campaign. Every team makes mistakes at some point or another. But only some clubs have the fiscal option of fixing those mistakes when the first major opportunity presents itself.


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