Friday, September 01, 2017

The Transfer Window

Money has pretty much destroyed professional football. The big problem is that the reward for success is large amounts of money, and the route to success is to spend large amounts of money. So, almost inevitably, leagues are rapidly becoming divided into the 'haves' and 'have nots' - where the 'haves' are those with regular access to the Champions' (sic) League.

(It's most notably in countries where only one club has such access, of course - it's not Celtic's problem that they are so far ahead of everyone else in Scottish Football, but it's a big problem for our domestic game and is only going to get worse.)

But probably what bemuses me most about the professional football these days are the absurdly inflated transfer fees... not for the top players, who of course will always attract a massive premium, but rather the absurd fees that are now paid for fairly mediocre players.


I would like to suggest three small(-ish) changes that I'd like to see, and that I think would make a fairly significant contribution to improving the game overall:

  1. The Transfer Window should shut at midnight on the night before the first league match of the season, and there should be no second window in January - the squad of players that you have when the season starts should be the squad you have when you end the season (barring players who are out of contract, that is).
  2. There should be a fairly tight limit to the number of players a club can have registered in their squad for the season - I would advocate that a club should be allowed no more than 30 players in their first team squad. Sure, they can sign more players if they want... but they're consigning some of them to spending the entire season on the sidelines before a ball is kicked.
  3. There should likewise be strict limits on the use of loan players: a club can have no more than 2 loan players in their squad for the year, all loans are for a season exactly, you can't loan a player to another club in the same division, and you can't loan out a player two seasons in succession.

The net effect of all of this will be that the market for the very top players (Ronaldo, Neymar, etc) will go crazy (well, crazier), but that the market for everyone in the second tier will suddenly lose a lot of heat - no longer will the biggest clubs seek to just sign up any and all players of quality (and then loan most of them out), but instead they'll fight tooth and claw for the few players right at the apex. And clubs that currently rely on players loaned from those biggest global clubs will now (a) not be able to rely on those loans, but also (b) will be able to actually sign some of those players (since they're of less use to Man City, Real Madrid, and the like, so the 'value' will be less, and the fee will then be manageable.)

Oh, and is also means that smaller clubs won't be descended on in January by richer-but-underperforming clubs and have their top players ripped away.

Or we could just carry on as we are, with transfer fees nudging £200M for the best (how long until that is £1B? 2030?), the game becoming skewed entirely in favour of the biggest clubs, and the whole thing rapidly becoming unaffordable for the fans.

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