By Tony Attwood
It is already happening in Europe, but it is a subject football journalists are totally silent on, in England.
It is not complicated, it does not involve Fifa corruption (the topic that seems to be totally forbidden when it comes to reporting for fear of damaging the proposed FA bid for the world cup), and it is about to affect a lot of clubs.
But still the media won’t touch it.
It is the issue of players whose contracts end on 30 June.
As things stand, if a club wants to sign a player registered with another club, the buying club must speak directly with the club where the player is currently registered, and not to the player or his representatives. The player and his agent can only be brought into the discussions once the player’s current club has agreed to sell and the two clubs have agreed a fee.
If there are six months or less remaining on the contract (for players aged over 22), the player is free to negotiate with other clubs and indeed is free to sign a pre-contract agreement, indicating their willingness to move under a “Bosman” transfer in the next transfer window opens.
This is why contracts end on 1 June. The players have the last half of the season to negotiate a move. and will then move in the transfer window before the next season starts. It is a way of ensuring that clubs facing relegation don’t go out and buy new players to help them stay up.
But this year is different, because no one knows when the season is going to end. However out of contract players can negotiate now, and indeed move after June 10 – before the new round of matches starts as the clubs attempt to finish the season.
What this means is that while out of contract players would normally be looking to sign for a club for next season, clubs which are threatened with relegation, or are looking for promotion are going to get a chance to bolster their squads for this season.
Now that raises the issue of the list of 25 registered players. That is normally not resolved until September, so when the season starts clubs get a chance to use players who are not in their 25. The old list of the “25” is said to end as the transfer window opens – which also suggests that the new players can play as the rest of this season is resolved. Or at the very least from 30 June, when the player is out of contract.
Given that the FA and League are far too busy trying to work out if the season can start again at all, and if so under what regulations about where the games are played, TV deals, TV money, late playing fines and an array of other financial matters, no one seems to have thought about out of contract players.
What is possible as things stand is that out of contract players can play for a new club from 30 June. Since most clubs don’t actually have 25 players in their “25” list there will be space. But it is also possible to argue that the 25 list does not exist between 30 June and 1 September.
Then there is also the issue of what happens over the “Home Grown” rule. The FA are known to be wanting to change this as the UK leaves the EU. The current version works around the EU regulations of free movement by not talking about nationality but about where the player was trained. This however won’t be necessary from 1 January 2021, as the UK won’t be in the EU, and so the FA will presumably be pressing a new regulation upon the Premier League.
But if by then the Premier League clubs have each signed a few new players in the window that opens on 10 June, including a few out of contract players, that home grown rule could then come under challenge.
It’s just another thing that no one in football seems to be thinking about, and no one in the media wants to talk about. Yet it is certainly already happening in Europe for in Sweden, where the season opens on June 14, clubs are starting to pick up players from the rest of Europe, whose contracts are about to end.
The players of course like this because if they are not getting their full wages at present, going to another country and actually playing, seems like a good idea.
It is just another case of the muddle that besets the FA and the Premier League administrators, and which for whatever reason, the media don’t like to talk about.
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