Anatomy of the boardroom: the football transfer window explained

Date published: Thursday 11th August 2016 6:53

With the approach of the new Premier League season and transfer deadline day, MBNA wanted to find out how a transfer comes to life.

They’ve investigated what the main stages of a transfer are and the people responsible at the football clubs and beyond for making the deals happen:

1. Spotting the talent (Scouts)

Despite the panic of the transfer window, scouts can actually spend months and sometimes years tracking talent beforehand, tailing specific targets to make sure they’re the right fit for the team. And since Premier League cheques often run into the tens of millions, there’s plenty to consider. Picking a footballer, particularly when it’s a big name, has got to pay off.

2. Setting the deal in motion (Agents)

Once the talent has been spotted, the game is on to bring them in. But it’s not about going in all guns blazing. No-one wants to reveal their intentions too early for fear of rejection. This is where agents come in. A club will instead approach a player’s agent to test the water before they make their official offer to the club. This conversation, known to – and banned by – FIFA as ‘tapping up’ – basically sorts out whether a player is even interested in transferring. While severely frowned upon, according to an interview conducted by Esquire, 90%iv of transfers are a result of the tapping up method. Once a player’s interest has been established, a club will ask about cost, time left on the player’s contract, their expected salary, and personal circumstances. After this, a few bids will be communicated by email, with the first bid rejected 99.9% of the time.v

3. Negotiations (Chief Executive, Head of Recruitment, Director of Football)

Fast forward to the official transfer deal and negotiation meetings are unsurprisingly brief. With all the prior discussion, the player’s agent and the buying club, headed up by the chief executive, head of recruitment or director of football will simply lay down their demands. However, a wide range of bonuses are still open for negotiation. Loyalty bonuses, appearance bonuses, bonuses for scoring goals, keeping clean sheets, winning a league, qualifying for Europe, and reaching a certain round in a tournament are just some of the special financial rewards a club can offer to entice a player. Coincidentally, you may have noticed no two media reports feature the same transfer price for a single player. This is because some choose to report on additional fees such as sell-on clauses, which set out bonuses paid to clubs who previously owned the player, based on their performance over time for the buying club, while others simply opt for the flat transfer fee.

4. Player power? (Agents)

The idea of a player donning a suit to sit around the boardroom and bash out the numbers seems pretty unlikely – and it is. The agent, who only gets involved in transfers, leads on 99% of the transfer deal.A player will be consulted at this stage, but only really in the sense that they agree the agent can start negotiating the deal on their behalf. The next time a player will dip into the negotiations is right before the deal is made, and it’s simply to talk through with the manager about how well they’d suit their new club.

5. Money and paperwork (Agent, Club Secretary, Premier League / FA Officials)

While the managers are off weighing up what they want from the footballer, the owners and directors of football are left to talk cold, hard cash. This includes everything from basic wages to bonuses and anything else a player or agent demands. A club’s secretary will then need to handle the paperwork. This could be the transfer documentation and financial agreement, the player’s contract, registration and bonus schedule, and any agents’ forms. The polished and shiny transfer is then lodged with the Premier League and FA.x

6. Last minute drama

You didn’t think it’d be that easy did you? Deadline day wouldn’t be deadline day without the last minute panic deals, and nothing brings more drama to the boardroom table than the ‘domino effect.’ This is where a sudden switch or backpedal on a deal means a club is left without the player they intended to buy, which can lead to many clubs finding themselves scrabbling around a reduced talent pool for a replacement. Other things can throw clubs into a panic too. A chance injury or recent trend of mediocre performances can suddenly make a player seem rather less inviting, particularly if a club faces a make or break season in terms of their position in the league. So minds change, deals fall through, and the transfer market becomes a turbulent place to be.

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