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The seriously flawed (and outdated) football transfer system as it stands

In the second of his articles looking at the European football transfer system, Jesper Frederiksen, VP EMEA at DocuSign, looks at how the system currently operates.

The current football transfer system as we know it was first introduced in the 2002-03 football season.

Fans know they can expect drama during two periods of the footballing calendar; depending on European season dates, one window runs between the break of seasons and the second runs for a month in the middle of the season.

In the UK in 2015, this latter window runs from the 1 to 31 January (unless this is a weekend, in which case it continues to the following Monday), introduced to create a fair system for player trades. Clubs can no longer just buy a new player following a string of bad results or player injuries.

The window transfer system also regulates transfers more efficiently. Football organisational bodies can manage which clubs are making trades and for which players.

Fifpro, the world football player’s union, recently called an extraordinary meeting of its members in Greece on the transfer system. As a result of its recommendations, FIFA is expected to adjust its regulations for the protection of minor players.

From 1 March, all international transfers of players older than 10 years will require an International Transfer Certificate (ITC), whilst currently the age limit is set at 12 years.

The new recommendations aim to avoid the exploitation of young players, who can be commoditised in the transfer market. Real Madrid has recently come under scrutiny by the authorities for just this issue.

Football financials

The system also currently aims to regulate and monitor the financial information for player transfers.

There has long been rumours of trades being used by agents to avoid tax regulation or by criminals hoping to move money across borders through a player move.

The complex contracts involved in transfers during the two windows make this process difficult to manage as agents, club administrators and the players themselves all fight over the fine print when a player is bought or sold.

The fact the window slams shut at a specific time only exacerbates the problem. These complex contracts take time to be worked on and signed by all required parties – time that transfers being pushed through in the final hour do not have.

Going to extra time

With only minutes to go, administrators do not have the time to print, fax, scan and send documents.

Often, parties are being strung along by one contract signatory who delays providing their signature right until the deadline closes, or does not sign at all.

The current transfer system encourages this option as clubs can hold out for higher prices for a player, safe in the knowledge that buyers are constrained by the time available to obtain the target’s signature.

Technological solution

Fortunately, technology provides a solution to these problems. Digital Transaction Management (DTM) and electronic signature are already used

Digital Transaction Management (DTM) and electronic signature are already used within numerous industries, including financial, healthcare, lettings and sport, to keep documents stored, signed and managed entirely digitally.

With DTM, clubs and football authorities can have full visibility of all required paperwork for a player trade, including sponsorship deals, previous club documentation, medical background and work permits that all need to be managed for a single player transfer.

By keeping these centralised on a single piece of software, clubs can streamline the entire process. The trade can also be managed from start to finish online, allowing administrators to monitor which party still needs to sign documents, and whom might be slowing the process down.

All this can be done from a mobile device, allowing business to be conducted on the move, or even by a player lounging on the beach during off-season. For players and agents moving from

For players and agents moving from training ground to training ground during the transfer window, this could prove invaluable.

The transfer system is more than a decade old. The technology behind it shouldn’t be the same.

Football has shown it will adopt systems like goal-line technology to bring the game into the 21st century.

Now, football organisations need to update the technology behind the scenes. Forget the fax - it’s time to sign contracts digitally and get the #faxoutoffootball.

Jesper Frederiksen, Okta’s GM for EMEA, spent four years prior to Okta with DocuSign, leading the company’s expansion across EMEA as VP and GM. Before that, Jesper held leadership roles at Parallels, Symantec, Google and NetIQ.