Paul Newman: Old transfer system was a great leveller for lower leagues
The Football League Column: The Football League feels the old transfer system helped to redistribute wealth
Monday 07 February 2011
It was called the biggest day in football transfer history, with £134m changing hands in just four deals as Chelsea signed Fernando Torres and David Luiz and Liverpool recruited Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez.
Yet the final day of the January transfer window was also notable in other less headline-grabbing respects. Transfer fees were disclosed in just 11 deals, of which only two involved Football League clubs. Middlesbrough paid Hibernian £200,000 for Marouane Zemmama, while Ipswich Town gave Luton Town £120,000 for Andy Drury.
The Football League has never liked transfer windows. It believes the old system, whereby clubs were allowed to buy and sell throughout the season, helped to redistribute wealth. Having the transfer windows means that clubs are unable to sell when times are hard, while the wealthy are able to bully the poor, knowing that hard-up clubs will not be able to cash in once the deadline has passed.
The imminent Parliamentary inquiry into football governance by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee will give the Football League a chance to press its case. It opens tomorrow, with Greg Clarke, the chairman of the Football League, and Andy Williamson, its Chief Operating Officer, among those set to give evidence. The League has already made a written submission, with transfer windows among the issues it has raised.
Fifa, the world game's governing body, introduced transfer windows to attempt to bring some contract stability across international borders. The Football League questions whether this has worked and says that they have caused a collapse in the domestic transfer market.
"The denial of an ongoing source of transfer income has helped polarise football finances further," the League says. "A return to an 'open' registration system where domestic transfers can be concluded throughout the season would help redress this position and reinvigorate the principle of wealth redistribution throughout the game."
Although transfer windows may be here to stay at international level, the League believes there is a case for returning to the old system at domestic level; particularly for transfers involving clubs not taking part in European competitions. It believes political assistance could be crucial in bringing about the change.
The League is also seeking support from the inquiry in its efforts to ensure its members receive suitable compensation when bigger clubs "poach" young players not old enough to sign professional contracts. The League reluctantly agreed to discuss this issue with the Premier League last summer following negotiations over the "parachute" and "solidarity" payments which the Premier League makes to Football League clubs.
There is a body of opinion within the Premier League that the current tribunal system is weighed in favour of Football League clubs. For example, Everton were ordered by a tribunal two years ago to pay Leeds United an initial £600,000, which could rise by an additional £750,000 depending on appearances, for Luke Garbutt. Leeds will be paid an additional £200,000 if the defender plays for the senior England team and will get 20 per cent of any future profit if he is sold again.
The Premier League has advocated a fixed scale of initial fees – which would be likely to be lower than those awarded by tribunals – and more emphasis on add-ons such as payments for first-team appearances.
The Football League says its members receive compensation only for a tiny percentage of the players who come through its ranks. More than 8,500 players aged between eight and 18 are currently on the books of Football League clubs. The League says that no other country has a comparable system outside their top-flight league.
To underline its case, the League adds that 12 of the 23 players on duty for England's last full international were developed in full or in part by Football League clubs, and that 46 per cent of England youth internationals followed the same route.
The compensation discussion could also involve debate over the so-called "90-minute rule". The Football Association currently requires that youth players must live within 90 minutes of their club. The rule undoubtedly stops some poaching of younger players, but some of the Premier League's big guns are unhappy with it and would like to see it scrapped.
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