EPL: Everything you need to know about Premier League transfer windows

In the English Premier League (EPL), February 1, 2021 was transfer deadline day for the January transfer window. In this article, we will look at how Chelsea sign, loan and transfer players.

In a typical season, January can be a difficult month for a club to do business. However, this season is especially challenging due to a few factors. The first and most obvious is how the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the spending power of most clubs. Due to travel restrictions and national lockdowns, it also has altered the way teams scout players. The second major factor in 2021 is Brexit and the new rules for deals made between the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU). We’ll dig deeper into the new process for EU players, but first, let’s start at the beginning. 

What is a transfer in soccer? 

In professional football, a transfer is the action taken for a player under contract to move between clubs. As we cover in our transfer guide for global Chelsea fans, the term “transfer” directly refers to the transferring of a player’s registration from one association football club to another. In general, the players can only change teams during a transfer window, according to the rules set by a governing body. 

What is a player loan? When can a football club make one? 

Players can be loaned to other clubs in a process officially called temporary transfers. A loan is when a player temporarily switches teams with their contract still intact. Large clubs often loan out younger players to help them gain playing time and experience instead of sitting on the bench as they develop. Although there are restrictions for loans in the Premier League, this process, as well as recalls to current loans can be completed during either transfer window. 

What is a transfer window in English football? 

According to the Premier League, a “transfer window gives Premier League clubs the chance to sell and purchase players” within England, across Europe and beyond. It’s essentially the registration period in which permanent transfers and loans can happen. Transfer window dates can change each year, according to what each national football association decides. However, FIFA rules say that there should be one window that may not exceed 12 weeks. For the EPL, this typically takes place during the summer before the season starts. The rules also state that a second transfer window, which is typically mid-season during the month of January, should not exceed four weeks. 

Why does FIFA have transfer windows? 

Transfer windows were established as a part of the negotiations with the European Commission to preserve contractual stability for players and teams. Although used previously by many European leagues, the current transfer window rules were officially instated by FIFA in the 2002-03 season. Despite some leaders looking to refine the process or revert back to old systems, the transfer window system remains in place today with each competition’s governing body determining the exact dates, regulations and exceptions. 

How does the EPL transfer window work? 

The way two clubs agree to a transfer can vary. However, to further expand on the FIFA regulations and EPL transfer window rules, as a formal way of showing interest in a player, a club representative can make an official enquiry to the club holding the contract. If the current club is open to selling a player, the new team can then approach the player, who would consider it with their agent and advisors. It’s also worth noting that clubs can agree informally on a transfer at any point. However, the deal will not become official and the transferred player will not be able to join the new club until a transfer window opens. 

Special exceptions can be granted if a club needs to sign a player, such as a goalkeeper, on an emergency basis outside of the window. Additionally, the transfer windows are for transferring into a football association. Players can transfer out at any time given the window is open where they’re transferring in. 

Can a football player refuse a transfer? Or request one? 

With both clubs on board, it’s up to the player to confirm the transfer. After consulting with agents, lawyers and other advisors, they have the choice to accept or decline any transfer. 

The player also has the right to request a transfer from their current club. A transfer request can be made by the player, but it is up to the club to comply with that request. 

What happens after a football club and player agree to a transfer? 

When all three parties (current club, new club and player) agree to a transfer, the contract is drafted, and the player can sign with their new club for a fixed term of up to five years. The player’s contract, along with other paperwork – including the transfer agreement, permission to work in the UK (if required), international clearance (if transferring from abroad) and any transfer levy that may apply – are all submitted to the EPL. Each document is checked to ensure it follows EPL, Football Association and sometimes FIFA transfer rules. Once everything is confirmed, the EPL will inform the club on the status of the transferred registration. 

The transfer window can be a hectic time for all parties. In fact, the EPL stated, “In one window recently, approximately 30 transfers came through in the space of an hour. Premier League staff will not go home until everything is checked.” 

What is a free transfer in soccer? When can it happen? 

A free transfer is when a player switches clubs without a transfer fee. It usually happens when a player is within six months of their contract expiring at a club or when it has already expired. Players in this situation are free to negotiate with other clubs or their current club for a new contract. As long as they are not under contract with a club when the window closes, clubs are able to sign players as free agents at any point in the year. 

A Bosman is a type of free transfer, named after a 1995 European Court of Justice ruling on the transfer of Jean-Marc Bosman. However, not all free transfers are necessarily Bosmans.

How long is the winter transfer window? When did the January transfer window open? 

The transfer window during the season is four weeks long. This year, the winter transfer window opened on January 2, 2021 in England, Germany and France. Clubs in Spain and Italy could begin trades on Monday January 4. 

When does the January transfer window close 

The transfer window is open, but not for long. Most transfers in Europe end today, Monday February 1, 2021 at 6:00 PM ET (23:00 GMT). There will not be an extended registration period for domestic-only transfers like this past summer’s window. The deadline is the same for Championship clubs, if they’re looking to loan players from the Premier League. 

How does Brexit impact transfers for international players? 

With Brexit, the United Kingdom leaving the EU, at the end of 2020, Premier League clubs have a few more restrictions. For starters, EU players are considered international players, so they will need a visa to work in the UK and clubs will need to apply for a permit prior to the window closing. In addition, clubs can no longer sign players from overseas until they are 18 years old. Signing players under the age of 21 will be restricted to a maximum of three in this January window and six per season after today. A points-based system also has been introduced for players from the EU to qualify for a transfer. See the new EPL procedures with Brexit.

What’s so special about EPL transfer window deadline day? 

Even with a full month for transfer opportunities, the last day before the window closes, transfer deadline day, usually generates the most interest across the league. That day is today – February 1, 2021. See last-minute deals and exciting transfers for many clubs unfold live. NBC’s Peacock in the USA will have live coverage of transfers for all of the EPL until the 6 PM ET deadline tonight.