Sir: Jon Holmes and Struan Marshall criticise the footballers' transfer system in the light of the Jean-Marc Bosman case now before the European Court of Justice ("The player vs the transfer trap", 21 June). They are entitled to their views as agents, but may I correct some of their assertions? They say that football
is an occupation where an employer can say, "Your contract has expired and I don't want you playing for me, but you are not going anywhere else unless the price is right".
They also say that
the club holds a player's FA "registration" and does not have to release him until another club makes a satisfactory offer of a "compensation fee" to buy him.
The truth is that, since 1978, a player has had the right to move on at the end of his contract. If his club offers him a new contract which is a penny less than his previous contract, he can move to a new club without any transfer fee.
A player who receives an offer of at least the same value as his previous contract, but does not want to accept it, has four options:
- to move to a new club, with the transfer fee decided by a tribunal if the two clubs are unable to agree;
- to sign the offered contract but retaining the right to move to another club if an opportunity arises;
- to sign a weekly agreement on the same terms as the previous contract; or
- to choose not to attend his club for training or playing, in which case the club can still ask a fee for him, provided it pays him a basic wage.
This is a perfectly fair system and one which has stood the test of time. Moreover, it has created more full-time clubs and employment for footballers than any other country in the world.
I do not expect Messrs Holmes and Marshall to appreciate these long-term benefits of the present system, but they are, of course, agents; and the abolition of transfer fees would no doubt be manna from heaven for them. They would not have to help pay towards restructuring clubs that were struggling to survive without the financial lifeline that transfer fees can provide, nor would they look after players whose clubs could no longer afford their wages.
Their article also states that players receive nothing from transfer fees. This is not true. Five per cent of fees goes into a central pot for all players which gives them a tax-free, cash lump sum on retirement. This scheme has paid out over pounds 10m in the last decade to our members.