Transfer deadline day – the lawyer’s perspective

With transfer values increasing and players coming to clubs with an increasing array of pre-existing sponsorships and image rights arrangements, deals in the world of football have grown in both profile and complexity, making the need for specialist advice is paramount – particularly when orchestrating transfers under the pressure of deadline day.

Here’s how a typical transfer deadline day pans out, through the eyes of a sports law associate who works for a firm that acts on behalf of a variety of clubs, intermediaries and individual players.

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08:30: I arrive at the office and check my emails for any overnight developments.

08:45: I make a couple of quick calls to our clients to clarify any new instructions and find out if further deals are expected throughout day. It is important that we are regularly in contact with our clients to help gauge activity levels and manage incoming work.

09:00: A short team meeting takes place to review open matters and allocate work.

09:15: My first priority is to finalise a transfer agreement. A client is selling a player and eager to complete the paperwork imminently.

10:00: After a series of calls the draft agreement is completed and sent across to the buyer for confirmation.

10:30: The transfer is now on hold. The client has received a competing offer for the player. This can often happen, with clubs vying for the same players and late bids commonplace.

11:00: The transfer is back on. The player has rejected an offer from the new club. I review the final agreement before it is confirmed and executed by the clubs. My first transfer of the day is complete.

11:30: The firm receives a call from another client who is purchasing a foreign player requiring a work permit. While The FA does provide a work permit panel to sit and consider applications on deadline day itself, the work involved in a successful appeal usually takes more than a few hours to prepare. I begin the process of drafting the documentation, while another member of the team works on the transfer agreement and player contract.

12:30: A quick lunch at my desk as I respond to ad hoc queries from clients on transfer rules and regulations.

13:30: A brief team update takes place to discuss ongoing transfers and divide any additional work among the team.

14:00: I provide a first draft of the work permit appeal for consideration. In the mean time I review my emails to get myself up to speed with any new instructions. At this time of the day the majority of our work is on the final stages of transfers, ensuring the necessary documents are in place for registration.

15:00: Another client is due to sign a transfer in the next hour and have asked one of the team to be present to assist with finalising the documents and managing the signing process. I pass on the work permit matter to another associate, then after a quick rush to the printer to get the documents ready I’m off to the club’s training ground.

16:00: Signing takes place without issue. The player, intermediary and club staff are all smiles. For those involved a transfer can be the culmination of weeks – or even months – of work, so the relief of getting the deal done is palpable. I head back to the office to make sure the paperwork is filed with the relevant governing bodies and to assist with other ongoing transfers.

19:30: Team pizzas are ordered for a quick ‘refuel’ as we make the final push towards the deadline.

21:00: As the majority of transfers come to a close, the inevitable instruction for a last minute transfer comes through. The work is divided between the team and we begin immediately.

22:30: It becomes apparent that the clubs will need more time to agree terms. I prepare a ‘deal sheet’ to be submitted to the Premier League allowing for additional time for transfer documents to be submitted after the 11pm deadline (two hours for domestic and one for international transfers).

22:45: Round the office the final touches are made to documents and sent out to clubs in time for the submission deadline. Often agreements can be pushed right to the deadline as clubs will try to use the deadline tactically to raise or push down fees.

23:00: The Premier League deadline passes, but work continues on any extended matters.

00:50: The final transfer is agreed and documents are submitted to the relevant authorities.

01:30: I leave the office after the last deadline for deals has passed. At home it is always interesting to review the media to see which deals were completed, particularly those the team were involved in.

Andrew Gartside is an associate at Centrefield, a specialist sports and media law firm. In the summer window in 2016, it acted on transactions worth nearly £500m involving 17 of the 20 Premier League clubs.