The January transfer window should be reduced
Current system punishes smaller clubs
17 January ~ The January transfer window should be abolished, at least in the top divisions of the major countries. Clubs should do all their buying and selling in the summer close season and then live or die by their decisions until the season ends. It might make some of them a little more careful about how they spend their money and players would be more settled too. Why should a rich club who got it all wrong in August be able to remedy its errors in January at the expense of a less well-endowed outfit who got it right?
But since the January window is obviously here to stay, perhaps it would be more practical to suggest ways in which it, and the summer transfer window, could be improved. The first thing would be to say that no transfers, in or out, can take place while the league campaign is in progress. So those who start early, like Switzerland, would see their window closed much earlier than, say, Italy or Spain. But by the end of August Italy and Spain would only be able buy or sell players from a few other European countries.
It is already undesirable that some players will have played for two clubs before the start of September – the case of Scott Parker with West Ham and then Tottenham in 2011 springs to mind – but this is nothing compared to what happens in January. In December, if not before, clubs start thinking about how they are going to strengthen and no doubt in many cases they begin to tap up the players they want.
Then, when January starts, you have some grotesque situations. Players who have not yet left a club omitted from the team because they are not thought to be motivated. Or players selected to play who go through the motions for fear of suffering an injury that might hinder their move. Not to mention players whose place is jeopardised by an imminent new arrival. In Italy, where January midweeks are dedicated to Coppa Italia and the concept of being cup-tied does not exist, there have even been cases of players playing in a losing team one week and then for their conquerors the next.
The length of the January window should be reduced. A month is far too long. When I first came to Italy, what now happens in January took place over a few days in November after which clubs were left to sink or swim. So I would propose that the window lasts for two weeks, starting on or around January 2. During those two weeks all countries who wanted to take part would have to take a winter break. So even in England the players could be given a short breathing space in the middle of an absurdly cluttered season. But if they decided against it, there would be no transfers for them.
Of course there is an alternative to all this, which is a free-for-all transfer market that closes about two months before the end of the season, as always used to happen in England. But I do not think that anyone wants that any more. And I do realise that some problems might arise with players from other continents whose league season does not coincide with those in Europe but they should not be insurmountable.
I would apply my proposals at most to the top two divisions and would not want to stop non-League clubs from taking players on loan from League clubs outside the transfer windows. But then they do not pay millions of pounds or work with enough players to make up three teams.
Finally, I do not like the idea of a player coming in January and maybe picking up a medal after another player has done most of the donkey work. And when I renew my season ticket, I want to feel that I am going to spend nine months watching one team, not one for five months and a substantially different one for the other four. Richard Mason
On the subject...