Comparing the Winter and Summer Transfer Windows

It's hard to imagine it now, but once there was a time in English football when the two transfer windows system didn't exist. Instead, up until the 2002/03 season transfers were allowed at any point between the end of the previous season and March 31st.

This cut-off point was chosen to prevent clubs snapping up players in the run-up to the end of the season on short-term contracts in a bid to win the league, or even to avoid relegation.

Rather than there being footballing reasons for their introduction, it was more a question of employment law that brought it about. It was originally driven by the European Commission who wanted to ensure greater contract stability for players and their clubs. The latter, naturally, wanted to allow movement and the compromise reached was to have two separate windows in the course of the year when transfers would be permitted.

Football players playing football
Possibly no-one quite realised what a frenzy of activity and interest these windows would generate - even as far as some fans looking for the best odds that a particular player would sign for a particular team.

In English football, the summer window runs from June 10th until September 1st and the winter one from January 1st until the 31st. As any fan will tell you, they are very different events and one only has to look at the amounts of money being spent to see this.

For example, the summer 20-21 window saw almost £1.5 billion being spent on players while the corresponding figure for the season's winter transfer window was around £100 million.

On the surface, you could explain this away by saying that it's partly due to the shorter period of time, but that's just part of the story.

The Summer Transfer Window

Long before the Summer Transfer Window opens there is always a huge amount of speculation about who might be heading where, as well as the possible transfer fees involved.

When it comes to the transfers themselves, there may be any number of reasons why they are being made. For many of them, players have simply come to the end of their contract. The club might not want to renew it either because they don't see any future value in that particular player or can't agree on terms. Equally, the player might have decided that it's time to move on.

There's also the question of a manager wanting to have something of a clean sweep for the new season. Not many go quite as far as Nottingham Forest did in preparation for their promotion to the Premier League. But usually most do have a shopping list of players they need to either strengthen an existing squad or fill gaps left by departing players. So then they head for the club's chairman and board to make a case for the purchase.

Also, in a normal year when the World Cup or the Euros have been played in the summer, it provides an international showcase of talent from other countries. Players that have caught the eye of managers around the world can find themselves being transfer targets. The Summer Transfer Window is the perfect time to strike.

These elements all add up to create the febrile transfer market that only ends when the new season starts.

The Winter Transfer Window

The Winter Transfer Window, however, is a very different affair. We've seen how the figures compare for the two, but these alone don't explain just what the differences are.

The first is that, in the summer, even the best teams will be looking for new talent and this is where some of the biggest news stories, and the biggest signings, come from.

But, generally speaking, it's clubs that are struggling in the league at this point in the season who are looking to bolster their squads. So some see a January signing as the ideal way to both acquire a new player which will possibly also have a very positive effect on general team morale.

The problem is that there is always going to be a fairly limited pool of players available at this time of year. Add to this the fact that clubs that are struggling also tend to be the ones with less money to splash about and that's why winter transfers tend to be less newsworthy all round.

Another reason why clubs can be looking to buy during this shorter window is that the season will have been running long enough for several key players to pick up serious injuries. So any purchases being made are very stopgap measures.

It all adds up to the fact that the Winter Transfer Window is a much more subdued period than its summer counterpart. And, while there may be some shock big name signings taking in place in future winters, this is always going to be the exception rather than the rule.
Tarique Buttz is a retired Kosovar Albanian who writes about football and betting for fun. He has followed football as a supporter since the 80s. Favorite team number one is Barcelona, but also feels a little extra for Newcastle.