As time goes on, I’m convinced that football would be a better place without the transfer-market – or, at least, without the current form of the transfer-market.
By evolving with the game’s capitalist trend, the market has really just become another method by which the haves are able to distance themselves from the have nots and, as such, there is a very valid argument for reform. Salary caps; restrictions on buying; spending limits: irrespective of the associated legal issues, all three have a certain appeal.
But forget that. Take the logistics off the table and imagine a perfect world scenario: what if the notion of a transfer-market didn’t exist?
Hold on to your “yeah, buts..” and think about it. If mid-contract movement was prohibited and clubs were able to acquire talent purely on a free-agent basis, consider how much calmer the football world would be.
True, new issues would inevitably emerge and clubs would be prevented from making profits from sales and improving their financial circumstances, but – in the main – the victims of the markets malaise would be worthy casualties.
Football has a problem with anger and, while some of that is natural radiation, in the modern day a lot of it is derived from flows of information. The perpetual online squabble, for instance, is in part fuelled by the emotional response to transfer machinations and, while not representing a cure, the absence of a market would lead to at least a partial armistice.
But, also, consider those who rely on transfers as a form of oxygen: they are many and, almost without exception, they are not a force for good. Social media chancers posing as agents; third-tier publishers who play fast and loose with veracity and credibility; agents who harvest the game of its cash.
There are parallels here with the role religion plays in society: in the right hands, faith can be a wonderful comfort and provide a vital energy. In the wrong hands…well, just read the newspapers.
The transfer-market serves a very real purpose and it’s one of the principal tools used by clubs to advance themselves. As with most trading floors, though, the problem lies with those who occupy it rather than the floor itself. It’s a worthy utility, but one which has been manipulated to within an inch of its intended purpose.
In fact, if you didn’t know any better, you could be forgiven for assuming that the transfer-market was just a cynical invention, constructed by people who have no real affection for the game but who are intent on harvesting it.
Where would the digital-era tabloids be without their Exclusive reporting?
What would happen to the transfer-specific social media accounts and their hundred thousand followers?
How about the dedicated sports news television channels which have embellished a bureaucratic procedure into a frantic, twenty-four hour self-serving tragi-comedy?
What of the agent who milks an income by moving his clients around like chess pieces?
On the one hand it’s fun and tantalising and all of us, at one point or another, are enticed by a rumour or a prospective transfer. The game is about optimism and aspiration, so it’s natural to lust after the short-term progress that new players typically represent. But on the other, it’s a festering Hellmouth: a capitalist tractor-beam that sucks all the talent from most of our sides, a steel-capped boot that stamps on fans’ sensitivities, and the lifeblood for the modern tribe of parasites who live off the froth and nonsense.
It’s an absurd hypothetical, of course, because there’s no real appetite for transfer-market reform and until the sides which benefit most from the current system – the wealthy, the influential – decide to act against their own self-interest, that is unlikely to change.
It’s pointless musing, then, but it will always be tempting to wonder what such a world would be like. Something fairer; something calmer; something almost certainly better.