We spoke to Brighton chief executive Paul Barber about proposals to shut the transfer window before the season starts, operating in the market as a newly-promoted Premier League club and finding value in the January window...
What’s your position on shortening the transfer window?
"My position has always been that in an ideal world you would close the transfer window before the season starts. And there’s a number of reasons for that. Number one, obviously, is the squad’s preparation. It gives a manager the best chance of not only getting the squad together in the time that he needs, but also getting them to work together before the opening game. So that’s a football reason. Secondly, if you receive late bids once a season has started, it’s unsettling not only for the players who are on the end of those bids but also for those players who committed to the club and don’t want the squad weakened in any way. So you then get into a potentially mad scramble for replacements and the whole thing is disruptive.
"So the footballing reasons are quite obvious. But the challenge is aligning the leagues across Europe in particular and the issue, I think, for particularly those clubs that are competing in Europe is the chance that their rivals are going to get an extra week or two weeks to bring in reinforcements if there’s not a Europe-wide policy.
"From a commercial point of view, there are other, smaller challenges. Most clubs launch their kit between June and July, fans want to buy them but parents — understandably — don’t want to commit to putting names and numbers on shirts because they’re not 100 per cent who’s going to be there, or whether new players are going to come. So that, from a commercial point of view, holds back sales in the club shop and then what happens is as soon as the transfer window closes you get a sudden rush of fans wanting to put names and numbers on shirts. But that happens at a time when club shops are busy anyway because the season’s started. During the summer when they’re quiet, these sort of sales are better positioned.
"So all round, whether it’s a football issue or a commercial issue, there are many reasons for the window closing before the season starts. That’s something which I certainly would be in favour of.
"I’m actually also in favour of a much shorter window because I think many transfers get dragged out over a unnecessarily long time period because they can be. A more condensed period might make for more frantic activity, but at least you wouldn’t have these huge dramas that take up time and resources, and usually end up in the same place.
"This is a personal opinion. I’d prefer a much shorter, sharper window closed before the start of the season. That to me makes more sense on and off the field."
Is there a broad consensus among Premier League clubs?
"Certainly from the clubs I’ve spoken to, I think the majority of clubs would prefer the window to close before the start of the season, providing that doesn’t put them at a disadvantage to clubs outside of England. That is totally understandable, of course.Tthat is something that is going to be a much harder trick to pull off just because of the nature of football across Europe and across the world. It’s going to take quite a lot of work with Uefa/Fifa to get a common date. That’s going to be the challenge."
How has Brighton's experience in the market different following promotion?
"First of all, as a Premier League club there’s an automatic assumption on behalf of the selling club that you’re going to spend more. That’s one issue. That’s common not just at Brighton, but any club lucky enough to play in the Premier League. The Premier League brand, and membership of that brand, gives people reason in their minds to put prices at the highest possible level.
"The second issue is that at the moment the market is very, very difficult. Asking prices are very high across the board. Player and agent demands are high. It’s very difficult to get deals done and get deals done quickly because players that are sought after invariably have more than one suitor, if they do have more than one suitor then the selling club, understandably, wants to create a market and the best possible market to get the best possible price. And the players and agents do as well. So the ability to get deals done quickly is constrained at the top of the market and all the way down.
"Likewise, as you move across to the UK, British players are at a premium. That means you’ve got to look at scouring the world market to try and find the best players and best value and, you know, that in itself is complicated for all the reasons that we know about because we’re going through a work permit process for Jose Izquierdo — a Colombian we’re trying to sign.
"These are the challenges that not just Brighton, but all clubs are up against at the moment. It’s a tough market for sure."
How about the January transfer window? How do clubs feel about that?
"The January window depends so much on where your club is at that particular time. If you’re flying high, you might be looking to top up, if you’re struggling, you might be looking to strengthen, if you’re mid-table, you might be looking to avoid the market all together because invariably the January market is more overheated than the summer market. The only advantage of the January market is that it’s a condensed window and therefore have a much more limited period of speculation and unsettlement because the time frame is that much shorter.
"January is good or bad depending on where you are at the time. The problem is that the January market is very transparent — people know what your buying motivation is depending on where you are in the league at that time. If you’re struggling, you’re going to be desperate and therefore prices go up. If they can see that you’re doing well and you’ve got a chance of promotion then equally prices can go up, because people can go 'Well if you really want this player and this is a chance for the Premier League, then this is our asking price. A market’s a market. They’re dynamic. It’s very much a supply and demand situation in any given position at any given time depending on who you are and where you at the point at which you make your move."