End of the football season = start of the real work?

With the football season having finished it would be easy to suggest that for those working behind the scenes a long period of holiday is now upon us. However, this could not be further from the truth, particularly in respect of player transfers. Although the forthcoming World Cup in Brazil has provided a certain element of distraction for the press, we are already seeing daily rumours about potential big name transfers appearing across all the usual outlets. But what actually happens for the lawyers and agents involved in these rumours and transfers?

Although the transfer window doesn’t officially open until 1 July, clubs and agents will already be negotiating behind the scenes. This is in spite of the fact that most players and managers will have taken a very short post-season break. These negotiations include agreeing contract extensions (particularly where the original contract contained an option to do so at the end of the season), attempting to renegotiate terms (mainly in respect of lengths and salary) and even attempting to find ways of terminating a contract or gaining leverage to help with any negotiations (Happy Birthday to any footballers reading this, by the way….)

In a lot of cases players will have agreed with their agents during the season that they would like to move clubs. Should this be the case and a player is still under contract, FA and FIFA regulations state that discussions are not permitted to take place without the permission of the employer. Despite the fact that the FA sees relatively few high profile referrals under its Rule K arbitration process for ‘illegal approaches’ (more commonly known as tapping up), there can be no doubt that this process takes place relatively frequently. Unfortunately however money talks, therefore if this takes place and it leads to a transfer then clubs are usually satisfied that they have been amply compensated. In addition, it could even be said that this process is accepted as part and parcel of the game.

If a club are interested in a player, they then have to make a formal approach to the employer. Any agreed transfer will need to be confirmed by The FA once the transfer window opens. This follows normal negotiations between clubs and then subsequently between the club and player, to be followed by a formal contract.

You often read in the press about smaller clubs being dissatisfied with the ‘poaching’ of their young players by bigger organisations. Where a player under the age of 24 has been offered a new contract, which is rejected in favour of signing for a different club, rules set out that compensation is payable. Should a figure not be agreed between the clubs the matter is referred to arbitration which is run by the Professional Football Compensation Committee. This body hears a range of evidence in respect of the player’s history and the background to the transfer and will set a figure. Frequently this is staged to include additional sums dependent upon future performances.

Of course all of this work has not even mentioned pre-season training, which commences sooner and sooner each year for players. When you take into consideration the fact that agents and lawyers are probably already working hard behind the scenes, alongside the fact that players will soon be reporting back for pre-season training (should they not be involved in the world cup), then it is fair to say that, although the playing season has finished, football never really takes a break.

Published June 12, 2014

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