Football: Elite plan transfer freeze: Premier managers favour new proposals to allow them more time on the training field

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The Independent Online
THE Premier League is ready to adopt a revolutionary change to the transfer system which could bar clubs from buying and selling players during the season apart from a two- or three-week 'window' period.

Support for the move is growing and changes could be made for next season. Rick Parry, the Premier League chief executive, says the subject is 'high priority' now the 22 secessionists have put aside their early differences.

Leading managers are in favour because it will allow them more time on the training field working on tactics and skills instead of travelling to matches to assess potential transfer targets.

Some of the smaller clubs fear losing the ability to sell during the season when they might be under pressure to raise funds but Parry believes the arrival of shared television riches and a phased introduction of the embargo could win them over.

If a complete change is not made for next season (and it remains unlikely) it is understood that the chairmen will be asked to consider advancing the transfer deadline by a month or two for each of the next two years from its traditional end- of-March date. The 'window', the short period when trading is permitted, would then come into effect in December or January of the following season, 1995-96, when it is scheduled to be a Premier League of only 20 clubs.

The system, whereby the majority of buying and selling takes place in the close-season, works successfully in Italy while the Tottenham chief executive, Terry Venables, who is a powerful advocate for its introduction here, has experience of a similar arrangement in Spain when he was in charge of Barcelona.

The principle was discussed for this season's Premier League launch but fell down because some clubs were reluctant to embrace so radical a change so soon. Chairmen have to decide how far they want the embargo to extend.

'We could decide that Premier League clubs would not be allowed to buy or sell full stop,' Parry said. 'That would restrict movement between the leagues (Premier League and the Football League) so a suitable compromise might be to mirror the loan system, ie, no transfers between Premier League clubs but to allow movement between the Premier League and Football League.

'But if the basic objective is to give managers more time with their players and have a settled squad then it makes sense to have a complete embargo apart from the window.'

There's also the problem of what to do with players from foreign clubs. 'Logically it will be self-defeating for foreign players to be exempt from the ban,' Parry said, while it could also usefully serve to slow the influx into the English game of players from abroad.

Another benefit would be in curtailing the activities of agents trying to arrange deals for their players during the season. It would also change the managers' role, placing more emphasis on their ability to entice the best from their team and on their valuation of players. No longer would clubs be able to buy late in the campaign to secure a championship or avoid relegation.

'Hopefully it will improve the quality of player and that has to be a major objective of the Premier League,' Parry added. 'It's got to be worth a try. If we don't like it after two or three years, we can always go back but we need to be bold and try different things.'

Joe Lovejoy on Mick Harford,

Football Diary,

Team news, page 46