Transfer (association football)
In professional football, a transfer is the action taken whenever a player under contract moves between clubs. It refers to the transferring of a player's registration from one association football club to another. In general, the players can only be transferred during a transfer window and according to the rules set by a governing body. Usually some sort of compensation is paid for the player's rights. When a player moves from one club to another, his old contract is terminated and he negotiates a new one with the club he is moving to, unlike in American, Canadian and Australian sports, where teams essentially trade existing player contracts. However, in some cases, transfers can function in a similar manner to player trades, as teams can offer another player on their squad as part of the compensation.
As well as this type of regular transfer, which results in the player being owned by one club, other forms of transfer are used throughout South America and southern Europe. Co-ownership is a system whereby two clubs own the contract of a player jointly, although the player is only registered to play for one club, and lasts for a year. third party ownership is ownership of a player's economic rights by third-party sources, such as football agents, sports-management agencies, or other investors. The transfer of Carlos Tévez to Manchester City for £47m in 2009 was controversial for the part played by third-party owner Media Sports Investment.
Another method of transfer is a loan. This is where a player is allowed to temporarily play for a club other than the one he is currently contracted to. Loan deals may last from a few weeks to all season-long and can also be for a few seasons. Rarely, a loan of a player can be included in the transfer of another player e.g. the transfer of Dimitar Berbatov from Tottenham Hotspur to Manchester United for £31m in 2008 included the loan of Fraizer Campbell in the opposite direction.
Before that, a player could agree to play one or more games for any football club. After the FA recognized professionalism in 1885, it sought to control professional players by introducing a player registration system. Players had to register with a club each season, even if he remained with the same club from the season before. A player was not allowed to play until he was registered for that season. Once a player was registered with a club, he was not allowed to be registered with or play for another club during the same season without the permission of the FA and the club that held his registration. The players however, were free to join another club before the start of each season, even if their former club wished to retain them.
Sometime after the Football League was formed in 1888, the Football League decided that restrictions had to be placed on the ability of richer clubs to lure players from other clubs to prevent the league being dominated by a handful of clubs. From the start of the 1893–94 season onwards, once a player was registered with a Football League club, he could not be registered with any other club, even in subsequent seasons, without the permission of the club he was registered with. It applied even if the player's annual contract with the club holding his registration was not renewed after it expired. The club was not obliged to play him and, without a contract, the player was not entitled to receive a salary. Nevertheless, if the club refused to release his registration, the player could not play for any other Football League club.
Football League clubs soon came to realize that they could demand and earn a transfer fee from any other Football League club as consideration for agreeing to release or transfer the player's registration.
In 1912, Charles Sutcliffe helped establish the legality of this "retain-and-transfer system" when he successfully represented the club Aston Villa during the Kingaby case. Former player, Herbert Kingaby had brought legal proceedings against Villa for preventing him from playing. Erroneous strategy by Kingaby's counsel resulted in the suit being dismissed.
In England, the "retain" aspect of the system was removed after a decision by the High Court in 1963 in Eastham vs. Newcastle United that it was unreasonable. The transfer system remained unchanged until the Bosman ruling.
In 2013, FIFPro, which is the worldwide representative organisation for 65,000 professional football players, launched a legal challenge against the transfer system. FIFPro president Phillipe Piat said "the transfer system fails 99% of players around the world, it fails football as an industry and it fails the world's most beloved game". According to FIFPro's European president Bobby Barnes, 28% of the money from a transfer fee is paid to agents, and that many players are not paid on time or at all. He claims this leads to these players being "vulnerable targets of crime syndicates, who instigate match-fixing and threaten the very existence of credible football competitions". Writing for the BBC, Matt Slater said "professional footballers do not enjoy the same freedoms that almost every other EU worker does", and that "players look at US sport, and wonder why their career prospects are still constrained by transfer fees and compensation costs". Barnes argues that "the system encourages speculative, unsustainable, immoral and illegal investment models like third-party ownership of players".
Players will commonly undergo a medical examination and/or physical fitness test before a transfer can be completed. Occasionally, previously unknown medical problems will be detected, potentially jeopardizing the transfer or the size of the fee.
According to footballer Shaun Derry, his first medical was as basic as him bending over to touch his toes to check the stability in his knees, but, as the the knowledge of sports science has evolved, the medical now involves MRI scans, and, according to former Nottingham Forest physiotherapist Gary Fleming, ECG's are also performed to check for any problems with the heart. The person performing the medical will check all the major joints, ligaments, and the players sight. The transfer of George Boyd from Peterborough United to Nottingham Forest collapsed in 2013 due to an inconclusive eye test. A player can fail a medical simply by being unfit, as was the case when Inter Milan tried to sign John Carew.
One method of club punishment used by the football governing body FIFA is a ban on transfers.
In 2005, Italian team Roma were given a one year transfer ban by FIFA, beginning on 1 July, when in September 2004, French centre back Philippe Mexès joined the club while still under contract with French team Auxerre. On appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in December 2005, the ban was reduced to end after the January transfer window, but CAS upheld the view that Roma had "not only encouraged Mexès to break his contract with Auxerre, but actively provoked the break."
In April 2009, Swiss team Sion were told by FIFA that they could not sign any players until the 2010 off-season, as punishment for signing Egyptian goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary from Egyptian team Al-Ahly in 2008 before his contract expired. The club appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, who froze the sanction pending a ruling, expected by the end of 2009. The ban was eventually lifted by FIFA.
On 3 September 2009, English team Chelsea were banned from registering any new players in the January and Summer 2010 transfer windows, after FIFA's dispute resolution chamber (DRC) ruled that French winger Gaël Kakuta had breached his contract with French team Lens when he joined Chelsea in 2007, and that Chelsea had induced him to do so. However the ban was quickly lifted by FIFA.
In 2009, English team Portsmouth were banned from signing new players until debts owed to fellow English teams Chelsea and Arsenal were paid with regards to the transfers of Glen Johnson in 2007 and Lassana Diarra in 2008. The ban was lifted 3 months later by the Premier League.
In February 2012, English team Port Vale received a transfer embargo due to an unpaid bill, which meant that the signing of ex-Vale player Chris Birchall could not be completed. Less than two weeks later, Vale entered administration. In November 2012, upon the completion of the purchase of the club by Paul Wildes, Vale exited administration and the embargo was lifted. Soon after, Vale eventually completed the signing of Birchall, who had been playing with American team Columbus Crew.
In 2012, Scottish team Rangers were given a 12-month registration ban by the Scottish Football Association for breaching rule 66 - bringing the game into disrepute. This meant Rangers could still Transfer players into the club, however they could not be registered with the Governing body. This came after Rangers entered administration. Also in 2012, fellow Scottish team Hearts received a 2-month ban for failing to pay the wages of six first-team players and manager John McGlynn on time. In 2013, they received an 8-month ban for entering administration, meaning new players would not be able to registered with the club until February 2014.
In December 2012, English team Bury received a transfer ban after the club took out a short-term loan with the Professional Footballers' Association. The ban was lifted in January 2013 after they repaid the loan, but in February, they received a second embargo after receiving another loan from the PFA. This embargo lasted until May 2013, when the club were taken over by Stewart Day and the loans were repaid, at which point the club had been relegated to League Two and been forced to released 16 players.
In 2013, English team Watford received a 5-month transfer ban for breaching football rules during the period of September 2011 until former owner Laurence Bassini sold the club to Giampaolo Pozzo in June 2012. Watford and Bassini were found guilty of failing to inform the football authorities about financial agreements set up with a company called LNOC, in particular their role in the transfer of Danny Graham to Swansea City. During the period, Watford were still able to register players with prior permission from league officials.
In 2013, French team Nantes received a transfer ban after breaking rules over the 2012 signing striker Ismaël Bangoura from Al Nasr SC. It was ruled that Nantes had persuaded Bangoura to break his contract with the UAE team, and were fined €4.5m by FIFA, to be paid to Al Nasr.
The following table shows the top 50 highest transfer fees ever paid in euro.
European football experienced a "transfer bubble" fuelled by rapidly rising television rights sales and a large increase in sponsorship payments between 1999 and 2002, and fees then fell away significantly, before rising again towards the end of the 2000s. The two most expensive transfers in euros since that time were both made by Real Madrid. In 2009, Real purchased Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United for €94 million (£80 million), and in 2013 acquired Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur for an undisclosed fee, which according to media reports was between 91 and 100 million euros (£77–85.3 million). When expressed in pounds, several other deals in the 2009–2013 time frame have exceeded the peaks seen at the turn-of-the-millennium transfer bubble.
Transfer fees are not always officially confirmed by the transacting clubs, and figures published by unofficial sources may or may not take into account various fees (e.g. to agents), performance related elements of the fee, and the notional value of any players included in part exchange. This leads to different figures being given by different sources. Performance related clauses have become more common in recent years, meaning that it is harder to produce definitive lists of the largest transfer fees than was the case in the past.
For football managers, the list is as follows:
A club may sign a pre-contract with a player while he is still with another club, by which the player agrees to move to the club at a future date, for example, after his contract with his current club expires.
Another situation may be where the current club is also a party to the pre-contract, and the transfer is conditional, for example, on a fee being agreed between the clubs or terms being agreed between the player and the new club, or the transfer is intended to take effect only after the player reaches a certain age.
The pre-contract is intended to prevent a third club from signing the player while details are still being negotiated or when the future date arrives.
As the player's registration remains with the current club, however, the existence of a pre-contract may be unknown to other clubs who wish to sign the player.
Under FIFA rules, if a professional football player transfers to another club during the course of a contract, 5% of any transfer fee, not including training compensation paid to his former club, shall be deducted from the total amount of this compensation and distributed by the new club as a solidarity contribution to the club(s) involved in his training and education over the years.
This solidarity contribution reflects the number of years he was registered with the relevant club(s) between the seasons of his 12th and 23rd birthdays, as follows:
|Season of birthday||% of compensation||% of total fee|
- Stephen Appiah: solidarity contribution was excluded from the agreed €8M price. Fenerbahçe had an obligation to pay former clubs for additional €0.4M.
- Vitorino Antunes: €1,500,000 x 5% x (5% x 4 seasons + 10% x 4 seasons) = €45,000 to Freamunde from Roma
- Arjen Robben: €500,000 to Groningen from Bayern Munich
- Robinho: €1.805 million to Santos from Manchester City
- Co-ownership (football)
- Loan (sports)
- Retain and transfer system
- Third-party ownership in association football
- Trade (sports)
- World football transfer record Progression of football transfer fee record
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