Why 8th August Could Be Crucial For TRFC
Will Tranmere's season change after just one game?
Hello and welcome to Deadly Submarine's 2019-20 League One countdown. Twelve months ago, we launched our inaugural countdown feature in preparation for Tranmere's return to the EFL. The response was incredible, and so we are delighted to be able to bring the feature back as we look ahead to Rovers' third-tier return.
With just eight days until Rochdale visit Prenton Park for the opening fixture of the League One calendar, we will bring you a new piece every day until 2nd August, with each related to the number of days remaining in some manner.
Make sure to follow us on Twitter (@DSubmarine17), Facebook (@DeadlySubmarine) and our new Instagram account (@deadlysubmarineofficial) to ensure you keep abreast of the latest releases. Each new entry will be released at 6am on the appropriate date, so you should have plenty of time to digest each.
And if you do miss an instalment, you will find links at the bottom of each day’s entry to take you back to any that may have escaped your attention.
Please find below our content for day three in the 2019-20 countdown.
When Tranmere returned to the EFL after a three-year absence in 2018, they found a much different transfer environment to that which they had left in 2015. On 22nd February 2018, the EFL released a statement indicating its members had decided to align themselves with the Premier League by closing the transfer window before the opening game of the 2018-19 Premier League season, ceasing activity on 9th August.
Whilst the transfer window did indeed close at 5pm on 9th August 2018, it was only closed for incoming permanent signings, with all 72 EFL clubs retaining the ability to sign loan players until the 31st August. This included loans where there was an agreement to conclude a permanent transfer in the following window — a de facto permanent incoming signing.
They could, of course, sign players who were free agents after 31st August, and could also transfer players out to any league where the window remained open, for example, as Tranmere did when signing Stephen McNulty on loan from Luton Town in October 2015.
It was somewhat of a fudge, particularly the rather large loophole in place regarding loans with pre-determined permanent moves incorporated.
To their credit, the EFL appear to have noticed this relatively glaring oversight and have amended the regulations for 2019-20. However, in trying to alleviate the problem, they have conspired to produce an outcome that, whilst rectifying some issues from last season, could have profound consequences for its lower-ranked clubs this campaign.
For 2019-20, the staggered approach to transfers by which permanent and loan signings were subject to different deadlines is gone. Notwithstanding, the commitment to closing the transfer window before the start of the Premier League season endures, meaning the EFL deadline for 2019-20 is 5pm on 8th August 2019.
Again, sort of.
This is due to the new directives announced on 2nd May 2019 which saw the creation of a new fragmentation, this time based not on the type of transfer involved, but the position of the purchasing club.
Whilst the EFL has maintained the pre-Premier League deadline, it now applies to Championship clubs only, with League One and League Two clubs effectively reverting to pre-2018 arrangements with a deadline of 5pm on 2nd September 2019.
In creating a two-tier system within their own ranks, have the EFL solved one issue by creating a multitude of others? The date 8th August could have massive implications, both negative and positive, on the lower reaches of the EFL, and therefore Tranmere.
Since the introduction of the transfer window during the 2002-03 season, clubs have had specific periods in which they can sign players. The previous system allowed for transfers up until the final stages of the season, similar to the regulations Tranmere adhered to during their three-year National League tenure.
However, from 2002, FIFA determined that there should be two transfer windows per season; a pre-season window with a length no greater than twelve weeks, and a mid-season window with a length no greater than four weeks.
Due to various reasons, individual national leagues' windows start and end at different times of the year, but these principles remain the same.
The Premier League's 2018 decision to end their pre-season window before the first fixture of the calendar is sensible and should be applauded. However, the EFL's subpar imitation of the move last year, and the subsequent adjustments made in 2019, do not appear to be anything close to logical.
If the EFL truly believe in the reasoning for the window's earlier closure, why persist with playing a fixture across the weekend of 3rd August, before the Championship deadline of 8th August? Why not start the EFL season a week later, coinciding with the Premier League opening and making the pre-season window a genuine pre-season window, which was the original concept of the 2018 Premier League move? One suspects having a Premier League-free weekend for television coverage, and the accompanying monies, helped inform that decision.
By casting an eye over that weekend's fixtures, one will find an EFL Championship match on television on Friday 2nd August (Luton Town vs Middlesbrough), Saturday 3rd August (Nottingham Forest vs West Bromwich Albion), Sunday 4th August (Bristol City vs Leeds United) and Monday 5th August (Huddersfield Town vs. Derby County). Tellingly, of the five televised EFL matches on those dates, just one is a non-Championship fixture, Stevenage's League Two trip to a Salford City team whose shirts are sponsored by Soccer Saturday's Super 6 game — a prediction competition that often focuses on Premier League and Championship contests.
So, the financial benefits of keeping the opening fixture of the EFL season before the Premier League kick-off, yet also prior to the old deadline at the end of August, are apparent for Championship sides. However, what possible impact could this have on League One and League Two clubs such as Tranmere?
For instance, whilst Championship clubs will have to have their permanent squads in situ by the second game of the season, Tranmere will have played six fixtures by the time the third-tier deadline closes. This represents 13% of the entire League One season.
Furthermore, the creation of a 'window within a window' between 9th August and 2nd September could tip the balance still further in favour of the clubs with financial resources, sustainable or not. Whilst clubs such as Sunderland, Ipswich Town, Rotherham United et al may not be able to compete with the very top Championship clubs on 8th August, they may be able to blow most of their League One and Two rivals out of the water on the 9th.
Yes, the argument can be made that it has always been thus, that the clubs with the greatest resources could sign the best players. And in a completely free market, that would remain the case. However, the current setup is no longer a completely free market, as there is a built-in lack of competition.
For example, if the EFL had moved the deadline for all 72 clubs to 8th August, then the top Championship clubs would have competition for signings from the bottom few Premier League clubs, wealthier League One clubs would have competition for players from the bottom of the Championship and the richest in League Two would have competition from the bottom end of League One. Whilst it wouldn't be perfect, there would at least be some form of competitiveness in the market.
As the prevalence of exorbitant loan fees and penalty clauses precludes many lower league clubs from taking a risk on the loan players that may improve their teams, is it possible that the new staggered approach will strengthen the grip of those few League One and League Two clubs willing to spend on such measures, sometimes beyond their means?
This summer, Tranmere have not replaced James Norwood with an expensive recruit, instead signing Stefan Payne and a young loanee from Coventry City. Last season, they replaced Ollie Norburn, who signed for Shrewsbury Town for an undisclosed fee, with a loan signing in Luke McCullough. These are not criticisms but evidence of Rovers' struggles to compete in the current EFL market.
Now, those struggles look to have been exacerbated as a handful of the 48 members of League One and League Two could dominate the secondary 'corrective market' and effectively have an unopposed second chance at building a squad. It could make life even more difficult for the rest.
Notwithstanding the potentially sizeable flaws in the new system, the rules are the rules and Tranmere will have to abide by them. And, for the sake of balance, it is important to highlight the possible positives of doing business in such a manner.
The most obvious of these appears to be the extended time within which negotiations can be concluded.
Naturally, having the squad completed before the start of the campaign would be the ideal scenario, but with Premier League and Championship sides unable to sign any players, including loans, after 8th August 2019, League One will become the highest level available to any of the 44 Premier League and Championship clubs' players made available for loan. Whilst Tranmere may not be able to compete with everyone at their own level, as a member of League One, they will still be amongst the most attractive destinations for any manager seeking to get a player some match action.
With this in mind, could Micky Mellon take advantage of the 26 additional days afforded to him by the new regulations? After all, Tranmere signed Luke McCullough on 20th August 2018, and he went on to become a big part of their eventual League Two promotion success. Will the SWA see an influx of loan talent, or indeed players who may have been released prior to the 8th August deadline, once League One becomes the optimal choice available to potential recruits?
If Rovers can find a club willing to be reasonable on loan fees and penalty clauses, a loan player whose wages they can afford or a free agent who sees Prenton Park as a suitable career move, then post-August 8th trade could help Tranmere reacclimatise with their League One surroundings.
Ensuring the entirety of the summer transfer window plays out before a ball is kicked each season seems like an obvious move. Unfortunately, but wholly unsurprisingly given the EFL's track recent track record, the first attempt at replicating the Premier League's new regulations fell flat.
Well, in 2019, some may argue the second attempt hasn't fared much better
Given the EFL have, by design, implemented a two-tier transfer window within their own ranks, who knows what the impacts may be for League One and League Two, and by extension Tranmere Rovers?
The possible side effects of such a move appear to outweigh the benefits, but since this is the first season of the current regulations, nobody can say for certain what will occur when Premier League and Championship clubs have been excluded from the market.
Nonetheless, the 8th of August could be a huge day for TRFC. Their League One objectives could become more or less attainable following the new 'sub-window' that has been introduced this campaign.
We will find out which in due course.
What are your thoughts on the new transfer window regulations? Do you believe they will prove to be positive or negative for Tranmere? Let us know your thoughts on social media.
Thanks for reading today's entry, we'll be back again tomorrow for day four of our countdown to 2019-20.
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