‘Window cannot be replaced with an open door’

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The Premier League yesterday insisted there is no alternative to the transfer window in the wake of record levels of spending and calls for the system to be scrapped.

The Premier League yesterday insisted there is no alternative to the transfer window in the wake of record levels of spending and calls for the system to be scrapped.

League Managers’ Association chief executive Richard Bevan is a fierce critic of the January window, claiming it leads to panic buying and inflated prices.

But the Premier League say it is the “least worst” option and the best possible system for football that would still be accepted by European Union employment law.

The transfer window system was introduced in 2002 after the EU demanded changes to the old system following the Bosman ruling.

Fearing a complete meltdown in the stability of players’ contracts, FIFA negotiated the current system with the EU and players’ union FIFPro.

Premier League chief spokesman Dan Johnson said: “It’s the least worst system.

“The alternatives are for it to be open all season, which from an integrity of competition point of view, let alone managers’ or fans’ stress levels, is not sustainable – imagine having to worry every month until March whether you can hold on to your talent. Or for it to be closed all season, which is something that European employment regulators simply won’t countenance.

“So on reflection, we would rather have the current system than open season or no contractual stability and compensation at all.”

According to business analysts Deloitte, top-flight clubs smashed the spending record in the January transfer window by £50m with a total of £225m splashed out last month.

The previous record of £175m was set in January 2008 and a similar figure in 2009.

The Premier League point out that much of the spending was using the same money, for example with the £50m spent by Chelsea on Fernando Torres covering the majority of the cost of Liverpool signing Andy Carroll for £35m and Luis Suarez for £23m. They believe the net spending figure of £82m provides a truer picture of the activity.

The level of spending by Chelsea and Manchester City has raised questions about whether the clubs would be able to comply with UEFA’s financial fair play rules, which require sides in European competition to only spend what they earn over a three-year period.

The European governing body, who will begin to sanction clubs that do not comply from 2014, said clubs could spend what they wished so long as they balance their books.

A statement said: “UEFA is aware of the recent transfer activity across Europe and is confident that clubs are increasingly aware of the nature of its financial fair play regulations which require them to balance their books.

“It must be noted, however, that the financial fair play rules do not prevent clubs from spending money on transfers themselves but rather require them to balance their books at the end of the season. It is therefore difficult to comment on any individual situation without knowing the long-term strategy of each club.”

UEFA did warn, however, that transfers made now will affect clubs’ accounts in the future.

“There is no doubt that transfers made now will impact on the break-even results of the financial years ending 2012 and 2013 – the first financial years to be assessed under the break-even rule,” UEFA added.

“The clubs know the rules and also know that UEFA is fully committed to implementing them with rigour. For example, as from this summer all payments due on transfers and to employees will be assessed by the Club Financial Control Panel as part of the ‘enhanced overdue payables’ rule.”

In relation to the Premier League, Dan Jones, partner in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, said the spending had been concentrated among a few clubs.

Jones said: “While Premier League club revenues have never been higher, we were surprised to see more than £200m spent in a January window for the first time, particularly after only around £30m was spent in January last year.

“However, when you scratch beneath the surface you find that around 80 oer cent of the total spending of £225m is concentrated across only four clubs (Chelsea, Liverpool, Aston Villa and Manchester City) and spread across only six players, so this was a particularly polarised window, with only a few clubs flexing their financial muscles, on what was a deafening final day of an otherwise quiet window.”

Deloitte’s report shows the Premier League easily outspent other leagues in Europe.

Chelsea’s Premier League home game with Liverpool on Sunday could mark Torres’s debut for the champions following his record-breaking £50m move.

“It is like the destiny,” said the 26-year-old striker of the prospect of playing on Sunday.

“It is not perfect for me but we will see what happens and I only have good words about Liverpool.

“They made me a top player and gave me the chance to play at the top level. I will never say anything bad about Liverpool. I have been very happy there, but now the history is different and I am playing for Chelsea.”

Liverpool’s club-record signing Carroll is still recovering from a thigh injury and is “four to five weeks” away from fitness according to his erstwhile manager Alan Pardew.