Deadline Day Difficulties: Addressing the issues with the Premier League’s summer transfer window

Featured in the Raumdeuter Online Magazine – Edition #15

Premier League clubs are widely expected to debate the current Premier League summer transfer window when they host their first meeting of the season, with change being sought to when the off-season window closes.

Currently, the English top-flight sees its transfer window shut the Thursday prior to the new season beginning. In essence, it makes sense in securing squad stability among clubs. If all transfers have to be completed before a ball is kicked, no team is going to be left in the lurch by some late business from rivals stealing away their star players.

However, the changes were brought in under the proviso that the rest of Europe would follow suit. After all, what is the point of tightening one’s own transfer window if the rest of the continent could continue to wheel and deal as they saw fit for the remainder of the month? It seemed counterproductive, unless everyone got on board with the culture shift.

Yet, as seen, the rest of Europe did not follow. League governing bodies across the continent looked at the Premier League’s change, saw their pleading glance for them to follow suit and instead simply stuck to their existing status quo. Understandably, that has left a number of top-flight sides in England grow unhappy, as the begin their seasons with their stars still ripe to be plucked from their sides, yet unable to replace or reinforce themselves should such a situation occur.

Late bids from clubs in other leagues, including La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga, are becoming increasingly common, as clubs in those countries realise they can strike deals with less direct competition from the financially-strong English sides should they leave business until after the close of the Premier League transfer window. Success in business is all about incremental gains and smart practice, and clubs on the continent have been gifted just such a gain direct into their laps.

As such, it perhaps has become time for the Premier League executives to take a long, hard look at the current early transfer window closing date and realise it was a well-intentioned experiment that simply hasn’t worked. The thought process behind the shift was a good one, but outside mitigating factors have seen it create further instability and issues for clubs, as oppose to shoring up the squads of their sides ahead of the new campaign.

Having transfer windows end prior to competitive football beginning just seems like the logical step for the larger, summer transfer window. January is a different situation all together and, inflated prices aside, works relatively well. For the flagship summer window, however, there should be a process and structure in place that doesn’t allow for this overlap. Pre-season becomes somewhat irrelevant as a result, when squads prepare and formulate their tactics going into the new season, only to line up on the pitch week one with an entirely different starting eleven, due to sales and signings late on.

The Premier League at least tried to address that, admirably, and while it hasn’t worked it should still remain an idea considered going forwards. Who implements the change is the only thing that would need to be different for it to be truly functional.

Standing alone, hoping that others will follow their lead, is not the right way of trying to bring in such massive, instrumental change. Especially when it affects not just their own league, but the continent as a whole. Instead, it must come from higher bodies – the likes of UEFA – who have the power to bring in change across all the leagues simultaneously.

A transfer window closing date ending prior to all competitive football in all leagues will never be truly possible, given the different football calendar some nations operate on, particularly in the likes of Scandinavia, but at least covering the major leagues and the traditional August-May calendar it could be done. This would ensure that every club knows before they start their first game exactly what squad they have at their disposal, and can plan and prepare accordingly, with no fear of potential talismans being snatched away. Clubs could consolidate ahead of the new season and know exactly what they’ve got and will have right through to the mid-season point.

Players who’ve pushed for moves away would know before the new campaign where their futures stood, and know to knuckle down and get on with the game rather than continuing to disrupt and unsettle team morale into the crucial early games. Those opening four Premier League games leading up to the first international break can define the early form of a club and often begin to dictate either a positive or underwhelming season ahead. With a consolidated, pre-season deadline day there would be fewer risks of offfield distractions for their players.

Similarly, those who find themselves perhaps not in the role they hoped, particularly high-salary marquee players who expect to be in the team week in, week out, cannot throw their metaphorical toys out of the pram should they not have the role they expect in the team immediately. Power currently has fallen too firmly in the hands of the player, as oppose to the club and manager. There needs to be a balance for football to work in the modern world.

Closing the gap between Premier League and European windows is one way we restore this necessary parity. We cannot allow football players to be able to force through moves in such an environment whereby their clubs are then unable to fill the void through replacements and reinforcements for a following six months or so when the January transfer window opens. Change must come about to address this, and it may well be easiest to realign Premier League with Europe.

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