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How Stuff Works: How Transfers Work In Association Football

Nigerians are football-crazy and that goes without saying. The football world is always awash with the excitement and anticipation of new players going to and fro new clubs. But for all we, Nigerians, seem to know about football we do not seem to know enough about transfers. Think about it. How many times have been at a mid-size viewing centre in your city and some semi-literate guy shouts “you know how much wey ‘we’ take sign Ronaldo dat year” and just like that argument has started? The dimensions those meaningless arguments take bother on annoying for anyone who knows enough about the game but then it makes me know something-fans out here or anywhere else do not know enough about how transfers work. This shows how they criticize their clubs for not signing this player or that player. Sometimes the criticism is well-founded and at other times, it is way off the mark. So today, we want to educate you on how transfers work.

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Transfers have not always been a typical part of the game, to be honest. By the beginning of the 20th century, players were only allowed to be registered to clubs for a few games at a time. Subsequently, this changed as the English FA mandated that players who registered to play for a club going into a season could not sign for another until the season was concluded. That eventually evolved into a system that saw players sign contracts that kept them at a club for an extended period. As time went on, clubs started requiring other clubs to pay for the players they wanted. This was termed compensation. In those days and until the Bosman ruling of 1995, a player could not just leave to sign for another club on the account of his contract running out. The whole transfer process has grown organically and many times practices tend to get ratified by the authorities into rules rather vice versa.

A transfer is essentially a business transaction between two football clubs and they involve players changing teams. Usually, when the said player is under contract, compensation must be made to the buying club. Usually, when a club seeks to sign a player, the potential buyer must go through official channels i.e. the potential selling club, about the availability of a player. There is also unofficial and well, illegal, means which is known as ‘tapping up’. Here, the player’s agent is approached directly and lobbied to talk to his client to join a new team. It is illegal because many times, it is usually geared towards lowering the selling clubs asking price by putting in a transfer request.

The two clubs negotiate an agreeable amount as a fee. Usually, there are three parties involved here: the player (represented by his agent), his club and the potential buyer. Usually, if the player is in demand, the club entertains many bids from different clubs and then decided which best catches their eye and helps their profit margins. The football agent is very pivotal as they have been seen to solicit bids on behalf of the player from different clubs to up the clubs asking price and the transfer commission. Which brings us to the next phase.

The football agent is due a commission on the transfer fee and that is to be paid by the buyer. Upon the conclusion of negotiations between clubs. The buying club may now negotiate personal terms which include compensation package (wages) which could be weekly or monthly and also image rights as well as bonuses. There have been cases where the two clubs negotiate a bonus package dependent on performances over the course of the player’s contract with the buying club as well as a percentage of the transfer fee if the player gets sold on to another club in the future.

The player is required to complete a medical examination which he must pass. In the event that the player fails the medical, the transfer is highly unlikely to be successful.

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After the completion of these modalities, the transfer documentation is sent to the FIFA database which confirms the transfer as well as is the final procedure in the process. If FIFA does not register the deal, then it falls through. Hence, it might not be the most conspicuous phase but it is just as important.

In the event that the said leaves on a Bosman i.e. the player runs down his or her contract and then leaves for free. Apart from the fact that a transfer fee is not to be paid here, other parts of the process are to be adhered to. Also, a sign on fee is usually negotiated apart from personal terms. In certain cases and depending on the terms of the contract, a player might be entitled to a sign on fee from the selling club even when he is not leaving on a Bosman.

The European game and the world transfer market is largely unregulated so much of the practices we have come to accept as standard evolved through clubs interfacing with each other and clubs especially the richer clubs and authorities like FIFA only tailor rules to accommodate extant practices and regulate against abuses. For instance, the Bosman ruling saw the European Industrial Court apply civil precedent in sporting matters hence allowing players to move for free once they run down their contracts. Also, FIFA’s introduction of two transfer windows in 2002 was only ratification of a practice that clubs and leagues had put in place years before.

So there you have it. Share and leave a comment on the article.



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David Okwara

Some call me David. Others, Emerie. Others, (unfortunate fellows) Biggie. I like to think that I have sense and that is why I write too. Otherwise, I draw and paint and sing (in the bathroom) and love to make people laugh. I love to understand how things work and that’s why I love DIY videos and YouTube of course. Follow me on Twitter @EmerieOkwara

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