Football is a unique sport as it prevents teams from buying, selling, and swapping players until two specified times during the season. Known as the transfer window, major leagues in Europe such as the Premier League, La Liga, and Bundesliga sees summer and winter transfer windows allowing teams to add or subtract from their squads. But why does football have a transfer window? It seems weird especially when most major team sports allow teams to add and subtract to their squads throughout much of the campaign.
The current transfer system began in 2002-03 meaning that an entire generation of football fans have grown up with it in place.
The windows were designed “as part of a compromise agreement with the European Commission about how the whole transfer system worked and how it could best preserve contractual stability for both the player and the club while allowing movement at prescribed times during the year”.
Why have a transfer window?
There are two key reasons a transfer window was introduced. The first reason was it allowed a club to have a set group of players for a specific period of time. It prevented clubs from chopping and changing players on a weekly basis and buying and selling whenever they wanted to do so.
The other main reason for using a transfer window is that it prevents clubs from spending too much to chase a title or cup, and it stops teams from selling off all their players late in the season if winning a trophy is not on the cards.
What was life like before the current transfer system?
Before the current system, players could be traded by teams throughout the campaign up to March 31 in the Premier League. The system was similar to the way the NFL, NBA, and NHL work in North America. Players were not allowed to move after March 31 as major leagues in Europe, such as the Premier League, were in the home stretch and cup finals were on the horizon.
So, could the old system come back? Although there has been plenty of talk about scrapping the transfer window, it appears to be here to stay. With the amount of money increasing for the top clubs, having a season-long or nearly season-long window would potentially give rich clubs more of an advantage in signing top stars.