On Thursday, the Premier League announced that the deadline for the summer transfer window would revert to a more traditional date in 2020, to bring it in line with other major European leagues. This followed a vote taken at a Premier League shareholders' meeting in London on Thursday morning. The summer transfer window will now close at 5pm on Tuesday, 1 September. For the previous two years, the transfer window has closed on the day before the start of the Premier League season.
Is this a surprise?
In truth, not really. During these previous two years, several managers of Premier League clubs claimed that a closure of the window before the start of the season put their clubs at a disadvantage in comparison to other European clubs, with their equivalent transfer deadline dates being over three weeks later. The theory goes that Premier League clubs have found themselves in uncomfortable territory beyond their summer transfer deadline because their own players could still be subject to transfers (or loans) to rival European clubs in those subsequent weeks.
That outcome is, largely, what the Premier League (and its member clubs) were hoping to avoid by making the change in the first place. By shutting the window before the start of the season, clubs would have certainty on their summer recruitment and their final squad-lists, thus being able to focus their attention on the opening games of the season. However, the fact that the other major leagues across Europe did not follow suit meant that Premier League clubs were afforded protection from player transfer bids in respect of their domestic rivals only. It meant that Premier League players could still be 'unsettled' and clubs were prevented from bringing in replacements when players did leave.
Were there any other factors?
It is unclear whether there were any other reasons directly communicated or attributed as being influential in the making of this decision. Arguably, the rationale outlined above is enough to justify the vote that was taken at the shareholders' meeting. However, other factors will have likely contributed to the thought process of the shareholders. Not least the UK’s departure from the European Union – as was contemplated by Richard Masters himself (the Premier League’s new Chief Executive) prior to the shareholders’ meeting.
The Brexit impact
The UK’s transition period means the full impact of Brexit will not be felt until the start of 2021. This extends to football. The freedom of movement principle means that Premier League clubs can temporarily continue to invest in European talent without needing to consider the Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) requirements (as is necessary for non-EU players who require work permits). This is expected to change from the beginning of next year, giving Premier League clubs one final 'window' of opportunity (apologies!) to exploit this key facet of EU membership.
In addition, Premier League clubs have reportedly been assured by FIFA that the key and commonly used exception to the general prohibition on international transfers of players aged under 18 will continue to apply for the rest of 2020. The prohibition, outlined in Article 19 of FIFA's Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP), does not apply where the relevant player transfers from one EU/EEA country to another, or is an EU/EEA national himself (who might be transferring from a non-EU/EAA country). This gives Premier League clubs an extended opportunity to reel in the best young European talent and exploit their ability to offer professional contracts to players aged 17 (in contrast to other European countries where players must wait until they turn 18). Again, the opportunity to use this exception is time-restricted. From the start of 2021, barring any intervention by FIFA (including revising its exceptions to the Article 19 prohibition), Premier League clubs will need to be more creative in how they facilitate transfers of overseas players aged under 18.
Consequently, Premier League clubs might consider themselves at a permanent disadvantage in comparison to other European clubs. As it stands, they will find it more difficult to bring in talented EU national players in future transfer windows.
The wider context
Premier League clubs will not be overly concerned, at this stage. There is still much to be determined in a political and regulatory sense before the end of this year, both inside and outside of football. For example, the scope of the GBE requirements might yet be subject to some changes before 2021, especially given that they will have a wider application after this Brexit transition period. The impact this would have on incoming EU-based players is not yet certain. Meanwhile, the full scope of FIFA’s intended reforms will become clearer over the next 12 months and beyond (plans are already in place to restrict the number of incoming and outgoing player loans by clubs from the start of the 2021-22 season).
In addition, television broadcast revenue will continue to play an important role in financing big-money transfers for Premier League clubs. It means that the best players from overseas (immigration rules permitting) will continue to be attracted by the 'prestige' of the league and the lucrative salaries that Premier League clubs can afford to pay.
Premier League clubs will probably feel that they do not need any additional reasons to be disadvantaged in comparison to other European clubs. Therefore, where the Premier League can adopt measures to restore a sense of balance, its member clubs will be keen for it to do so. Bringing the summer transfer window back in line with the rest of Europe will be seen as a step in the right direction. At the very least, clubs will now have an extra few weeks to make the most of the freedom of movement principle and FIFA’s EU/EEA exception to the Article 19 prohibition.
Premier League clubs have decided to change their summer transfer window to bring it back in line with the rest of Europe.
It means this summer's transfer window will close on September 1 at 5pm for Premier League clubs.