The English Premier League is considered to be a very competitive on the field and a very rich, as well as popular off the field. But it is generally not credited with innovation. Most of the technical innovation in the game seems to come from the continental Europe – from Pep’s “tiki-taka” to Klopp’s “gegenpress”. Similarly, adoption of technology also appears to be driven by other domestic leagues or the Champions League. So, it was with amusement that Premier League fans received the news that fourteen Premier League clubs had outvoted five of their peers (Burnley abstained), to introduce a transfer deadline reform. The summer transfer window for Premier League in 2018, will shut at 17:00 hour on August 9, 2018 – about two days before the start of the Premier League season.
A few technical details first. Club transfers are governed by FIFA’s “Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players”. These regulations that were introduced before the 2002-03 season were designed to introduce contractual stability in club football. They state that each national association can decide their own transfer window, as long as it opens after the league season ends and lasts less than twelve weeks. The transfer window for a particular association is applicable only to incoming transfers and not to outgoing transfers. This last bit has a lot of pundits and EPL fans in a tizzy.
Now let us take a look at what are the likely effects of this reform on the Premier League clubs.
Premier League Clubs Can Be Clear About Their Squad for the Season
First the positive effect – most managers are happy with one aspect of this decision. As Jose Mourinho, whose club voted against the reform, puts it, “Of course, I want to arrive, day one, I want to have my squad, my players, I want to work and travel with them in the preseason, I don’t want to be waiting for late decisions.” An obvious example of advantages of early transfers comes from Liverpool. Mohamed Salah joined Liverpool even when his future team mates had not returned from their holidays. He is so integrated into the system now that he seems indispensable and is winning Player of the Month awards.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, on the other hand, joined on the deadline day for a price higher than the Reds paid for Salah, and yet there is no clarity on when and where will he start for his new team. Early transfers are not only easily integrated, but they are also cheaper.
Premier League Will be Left Exposed
This is the point that had the five clubs (Man United, City, Swansea, Crystal Palace, and Watford) voting against the reform. FIFA regulations mean that Premier League clubs cannot buy after the deadline, but all the other associations in Europe (and elsewhere) can still sign their players until the end of their own deadlines. That is a possibility that Premier League clubs will be poached from after the close of their window without being able to buy replacements, but the situation is not as dire as some people are making it to be. This season as well, the Spanish window closed a day after the EPL window, but we did not see many high-profile transfers happening from England to Spain.
Clubs Will Be More Determined in Dealing with Want Away Stars
So, how will clubs negate the risk discussed above? They will do what Liverpool and Southampton did with Coutinho and Virgil van Dijk this season. If offers come in after the close of the window for first-team players, most of them will be rejected. This could also lead to Premier League clubs demanding higher prices after their window closes. This could result in temporary player anguish – as exhibited by the two examples cited above. But as both of them have shown, disgruntled want away stars can be reintegrated in the team.
This transfer deadline reform will undoubtedly lead to a bit of a rethink in the Premier League clubs about how they plan their new signings and how they deal with their existing players. But overall, I feel that an earlier deadline can give the Premier League a steadier start than the current system. Fears of being exposed are valid, but I believe that the clubs will overcome this hurdle through more determined negotiations.