January transfer window hangs heavy over English football


The story of the transfer window is a tale of twisted opinions that were contrived for varying reasons, with personal benefit and individual gain the main protagonist for the powers that be - their decisions entirely responsible for the situation we find ourselves in today.

Football managers up and down the country, throughout all levels of the game, are always complaining about the transfer window. So, the question is, why have we got one in the first place?

The Premier League was the main driving force behind the initial idea, but by the time the ruling was introduced their stance had changed completely.

The idea was first put to vote in the English top-flight 20 years ago, at the start of the 1991-92 campaign. However, the plans were quickly shelved through fears from one or two smaller clubs who stated concerns about having to do most of their buying during the summer, and losing the luxury of being able to sell during the regular season.

But by December 1992, several high-profile managers and senior Premier League officials were pushing once again for the decision to be reconsidered, pointing to the successful integration of a similar system in Italy's Serie A.

Former EPL chief executive Rick Parry backed the proposal of a closing shop for the entire season, bar a two-or-three-week 'window' in December and January, an idea that was also being championed by then Tottenham manager Terry Venables.

"Terry's idea is that managers ought to be coaches, spending time with their players and not looking around for new signings or fending off agents or having to deal with unsettled players," he said.

A lack of support meant that the proposal was once again kicked into touch, and that was the last we heard of any transfer window until 1998 - when at an Athens meeting between nine of Europe's top leagues, plans were put together for the creation of a standardised transfer policy to be implemented right across Europe.

"It would keep some control over the agents just hawking players around constantly," said Peter Leaver, the Premier League chief executive in 1998.

"There is feeling we need harmony throughout Europe to ensure fair play and it's something we will continue to discuss. I think clubs would also have to start planning ahead properly. I think it would make a lot of sense."

UEFA didn't take much convincing. General secretary Gerhard Aigner commented: "We have to introduce a European-wide system to stop the confusion that has followed Bosman."

In September 1999, UEFA announced plans for a transfer window running for six weeks from mid-December to the end of January - a proposal that was rubber-stamped nine months later when FIFA put forward a proposal that would change the game, including the introduction of a European transfer window.

By October 2000, a biannual agreement was reached between all European countries except England, who now opposed the idea, stating concerns about the length and time the transfer windows would be implemented.

By 2001 the story had moved full-circle, with UEFA now putting pressure on the Premier League to accept the new conditions, and the system we know today was eventually introduced in 2002-03.

"The English clubs did not want it, they were very happy with the existing system but, due to no fault of our own, we have had thrust upon us a new system which makes life more difficult," was former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein's summary in August 2002.

"We were robustly opposed to it but were advised by UEFA that we had to comply and we have no alternative but to comply against our will."

The transfer window was supposed to have been introduced in order to prevent the complete dismantling of the old transfer system - ten years on, it's hard to argue against the fact that the Premier League has been anything other than the master of its own downfall.

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