Emergency loan window: System changes explained

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Image: Clubs can only make loan signings during the two allotted transfer windows, following FIFA's new ruling

The 2016/17 season is upon us and the start of radical alterations to the loan system have come into force. But what do these changes mean for clubs up and down the country? With the help of Sky Sports Football League expert Ian Holloway, Jack Wilkinson examines...

World football's governing body FIFA has scrapped the emergency loan window in a bid to protect the "sporting integrity of competitions", with these measures affecting English football at the start of the upcoming season.

Until now, emergency loans had allowed clubs in the Football and National Leagues to sign players on deals ranging between 28 and 93 days in two periods outside of the regular transfer windows.

The new proposal, however, means clubs are no longer permitted to do so, severing what has rapidly become a vital tool for clubs and players up and down the country.

If my washing machine breaks, I shouldn’t have to wait until the end of the year to fix it. It’s madness. What happens if I haven’t got enough money to have two washing machines? Newcastle will have two or three, so they’ll be more efficient and I’ll be walking around in dirty clothes looking like a tramp.
Ian Holloway

While this means transfer fanatics will have to do without the thrill of an unexpected signing outside of the allotted windows, the implications for clubs, particularly those further down the football pyramid, are more concerning.

Those who were most active in the emergency loan market tended to be so by necessity. Small squads and small budgets meant clubs lower down required a back-up option when injuries or suspensions struck.

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Having frequently dipped into the loan market during his spells at seven clubs in the Football League, Holloway fears the law changes will have huge ramifications.

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"It's horrendous," he told Sky Sports. "This rule change will be a disadvantage to the clubs with smaller budgets. It means you have to have your squad assembled by the end of the first window, which is going to suit the bigger clubs with the bigger budgets.

Michael Chopra of Cardiff City battles with Seamus Coleman of Blackpool during the Coca-Cola Championship Playoff Final between
Image: Loan signing Seamus Coleman inspired Blackpool during their promotion-winning campaign in 2009/10

"You'll have to spend more before the window closes as you're not allowed to add to it if you get injuries, suspensions, loss of form to players and so on. It's going to make things tougher for the smaller clubs and hands the bigger clubs an advantage - end of story."

It's worth noting that, in certain situations to help ease the transition into the revised arrangements, measures are in place that allow clubs to access the emergency loan market like they used to.

As well as helping clubs with injuries and suspensions, the emergency loan market thrived on the demand from lower-league clubs to nurture the next star of a Premier League academy.

Transition-easing measures

  • Clubs are permitted to sign a goalkeeper on a seven-day ‘emergency loan’ basis if they do not have a senior goalkeeper that has made five first-team apps
  • Clubs will be able to recall a goalkeeper at 24 hours’ notice from a loan at another club if they are unable to field two fit goalkeepers in their 18-man matchday squad.
  • A player registered on a standard loan may continue to play non-first team football for his parent club during the term of his loan period.

Confronted with a season in under-21 football, where the standard failed to develop their talent, or a season on the first-team bench that yielded a mere handful of appearances, the option of a loan in the Football League provided games, experience and, in some cases, silverware for budding young professionals.

Holloway added: "I don't think I'd have got Blackpool promoted that season if I wasn't able to sign Seamus Coleman in the emergency window. We won nine of the last 11 games when we took Coleman to replace Neal Eardley who had got injured. A loan signing can change a season and a player's career."

England internationals Harry Kane and Joe Hart are just two of a host of players who have gained valuable game-time during their careers via the loan market. Surplus to requirements at respective stages of their development as professionals, their talents were utilised elsewhere, providing the experiences on which their careers were forged.

Butland kane
Image: England internationals Jack Butland and Harry Kane have benefitted from loans

FIFA says the removal of the loan window will stop short-term loans affecting the sporting integrity of competitions. So gone are the days - as Holloway mentioned - of clubs sealing promotion with the help of a loanee.

While the impact of these changes are uncertain in the short term, it appears likely to be another tricky obstacle for Football League managers to negotiate.

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