Transfer deadline day: The many moving parts that make up a modern deal


Although the subject of transfers is rarely far from the sports media or the thoughts of the football fan, some of the realities of how they are carried out remain somewhat shrouded in mystery.

Off the pitch, football works away from the gaze of public scrutiny. While most supporters have a basic understanding of how things happen, the ever-changing landscape means that some aspects are left misunderstood or in the shadows entirely.

Read more: Why optimism is in the air for Fulham ahead of Premier League opener

To shed some light on transfers ahead of tomorrow's deadline for English clubs, City A.M. spoke to Mohit Pasricha, the head of sports and media at law firm Mackrell Turner Garrett, who regularly works on Premier League deals.


The simple act of purchasing a player isnt always simple at all.

Essentially three separate deals need to be struck: the buying and selling clubs have to agree over a transfer fee, the players personal terms must be straightened out between buying club and the players agent, and the club will also negotiate over the agents commission fee.

“You can get some deals over the line in a couple of hours, especially when all parties are working together,” says Pasricha. “But theres always been a lot of time spent behind the scenes and ultimately there needs to be a harmonisation between all involved. Any delays over the three revolving parts of the negotiations can have a massive impact and scupper a deal.”


The people tasked with navigating the world of transfers and with making things happen are the agents, who are always working.

Speaking with clients, clubs and others in the industry to sound out potential moves is a near non-stop obsession and WhatsApp is a popular tool of choice.

With seven-figure sums to be made in commissions and time pressure always a factor, deals are not always done by the book.

Liverpool were forced to apologise to Southampton over their interest in defender Virgil van Dijk (Source: Getty)

“Fifa regulations say you have to get the selling clubs permission to talk to a player first, but as seen last season with the much publicised move of Virgil van Dijk from Southampton to Liverpool, it doesnt work that way in practise,” says Pasricha.

“That was a slight glimpse into what the window is like. Selling clubs will often go on the basis that there have already been conversations about a players interest in a deal before theyre contacted.”

Another aspect which can muddy the waters is dual representation, whereby an agent acts on behalf of the player and the club, or even both clubs, in negotiations. The practise is allowed within the FAs regulations and is commonplace at the moment, but the possible pitfalls are plain to see.

“Agents do background work and the potential for a conflict of interest naturally arises when you consider they often act on behalf of both clubs and players,” adds Pasricha.

Fax machines?

The image of a club employee frantically faxing over crucial documents at the 11th hour may be an appealing one – but unfortunately its also outdated.

Since 2010 clubs have used Fifas Transfer Matching System (TMS). The system, whereby buying and selling clubs have to enter key information online, is currently used only for international transfers to eliminate disputes, promote transparency and deter money laundering, but is expected to be introduced for domestic deals, like in other European countries, in due course too.

Each club has someone trained in using it and there are sanctions for improper usage, with an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) needed before a move can go ahead.

Cristiano Ronaldo's £99m move from Real Madrid to Juventus is the biggest of the summer window so far (Source: Getty)

Domestic transfers, meanwhile, are subject only to FA rules and those of the specific league, with communications done in the more traditional form of phone calls and emails.

Scanned paperwork is submitted to the FA via email, before a player can be registered with the league via transfer documents and contract.

Image rights

One aspect of transfers on the rise is the value of image rights, which have grown in importance as players have become more than just players.

“Clubs are now starting to commercialise themselves as a brand,” says Pasricha. “Which means they are trying to make the most out of every single player, rather than just focusing on the key ones.”

Such considerations are now a part of negotiations, with players looking for 15 to 20 per cent on top of their salary from the club, who can then use their image in marketing campaigns.

Players take legal and financial advice upon moving to a new team and endorsement and commercial deals can take a lot of consideration.

For instance, if a player has a pre-existing deal with a car manufacturer and moves to a club who have their own endorsements it can take time to work through to prevent a breach of contract.

Behaviour obligations

Manchester United v Real Madrid - International Champions Cup 2018
Endorsements and sponsorship are a huge part of football in the modern age (Source: Getty)

The growth of the sport away from the pitch means players take on many responsibilities when signing for a new side – they have to fit the mould across the board.

For their part clubs want to guard against any potentially damaging factors, so protect themselves with morality clauses within players contracts.

“There are certain obligations placed on players for their behaviour to ensure they dont bring the club into disrepute,” explains Pasricha. “They generally cover a number of different misdemeanours, like doping, gambling and criminal behaviour.”

Ill-advised social media posts, for example, could therefore see a contract terminated.

With so much to consider, way beyond just performances on the pitch and a transfer fee, its no wonder high-profile moves can see haggling drag on.

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