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Abolishing transfer fees may have to be the answer

So a week of turmoil for both Manchester United and Wayne Rooney has come to an end with both parties peacefully reconciled. All the arguments in the pubs and clubs have all proven to be  pointless as have the thousands of words and opinions published but the core problem for football still exists. One man who hit the nail on the head was Blackpool manager Ian Holloway because his outburst was completely correct and justified – up to a point. The ‘Bosman’ ruling is NOT the real problem and as much as people like Holloway would love to see it wished away, the fact is that it never will. UEFA and FIFA spent years and millions of Euros fighting it in the courts but at the end of the day they were forced to bow to the law. Cases like we have just witnessed with Rooney happens every day of the week all over the world.  ‘Bosman’ will always be with us whether we like it or not, the solution is to find a better way of living with it  – and the answer may not be all that difficult.

Imagine for one moment that United did NOT face the prospect of losing  £30 to £50m by having one of their biggest stars walking away for nothing at the end of his contract? Would the outrage by the club and its fans have been as great? Would the club have been backed into the same desperate corner? Would the player and his agent have possessed such a powerful weapon to blackmail the club with? There can be little doubt what the answer to each of those questions is, so yes, as outrageous as it may seem, the authorities may have to find a way of abolishing all transfer fees.

It will undoubtedly be a one off shock to the major clubs who will see the book value of their assets plummet virtually overnight but the long term benefits to those same clubs and to the game itself  will surely make such a decision worthwhile. The dilemma will then become one of finding a new system which is fair – and within the jurisdiction of the law courts to be developed. Granted, that may be easier said than done but it cannot be impossible.

Lets say player A is on a 5 year contract worth £2m a year and wants to break it after 3 years. If his club agrees to the player going elsewhere, another club can buy the remainder of his contract for £4m – the £2m per year earned times the two years remaining on his contract. If the club wants to retain the player, he will have to see out his full contract.

So what happens when the contract expires? One of two things. If the club does not offer the player a new contract, he can then become a free agent. Alternatively, if the club offers the player a new contract worth say, £3m a year for 5 years, the player can either accept it or he can go to another club which will have to pay the £15m that the contract offered is worth. The more a club values a player, the higher the earnings offered will be and the more another club will have to pay if he wants to move.

Questions will be asked about the time and money a small club spends on developing young players. Such a system will obviously be unfair on them but what they may lose on the swing could be gained on the roundabout. It’s also no different to what happens in every other profession. If an 18 year old joins the Air Force for example, is trained to become a pilot, then decides to go and work for a commercial airline at the end of his contract, no compensation is expected to be paid to the military. There’s no reason why football clubs should be any different.

Objections to such a new system are sure to be many and it’s probably not a perfect one, but while multi million transfers exist in football, players and their agents will continue to exploit the existing one to their advantage.

Will abolishing transfer fees be good for the game?


No Responses to “Abolishing transfer fees may have to be the answer”

  1. Simon Horwell says:

    Sorry but the football hierarchy is already heavily skewed in favour of the big clubs. Abolishing transfers fees will onyl hurt the smaller teams, many of which survive by either identifying bargains and then selling them on at a higher fee; or developing their own players. The lower reaches of the English game literally depend on this income.

    The only realistic solution is to introduce stiffer financial compliance laws which mean teams cannot overspend. I don’t see any solution to players running down contracts or value plummeting in the final year of contracts. This is essentially guaranteed by European Union employment laws.

  2. Tom Addison says:

    A very complicated issue, the likes of which I think neither yourself, I or most (if not all) readers on this forum are qualified to answer. Better to leave the stuff like this to Stefan Szymanski, Stephen Dobson and John Goddard.

  3. Frank Scicluna says:

    You’re absolutely right Tom, it’s not an easy one. This was just a little bit of food for thought



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