As always the closing days of the European transfer window have been a source of great excitement for football fans and casual sports observers around the world. As the January transfer window closes at 11pm on Friday 31st, we’ll see the rumours come to an end and the final line up for our top teams fall into place.
As a keen Manchester United fan I’m pleased to see our boys have already signed Juan Mata, a much needed reinforcement at this point of our season! Meanwhile, a fair few of my colleagues are not as happy as me with their clubs’ activities in the transfer window. As the window draws to a close there’s still those vital few days where anything could happen. Over on Twitter we’ve been watching the #deadlineday hashtag closely.
Back in the boardroom, however, the deadline day can be an administrative nightmare. Managers are left pulling out what little hair they still possess as deals fall through. West Brom missed out on signing Romelu Lukaku in the last minute the last window, and the club has failed to emulate last year’s form without this new blood. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s last minute signing of Mesut Ozil has proven a stroke of genius.
The final rush of transfers as the deadline reaches its peak on the 31st of January means clubs often miss out on signings as paperwork fails to be put through to the FA before the 11pm deadline expires. Historically, the format has seen numerous signings fail as last-minute transfers are not put through in time. The cause of this is the sheer amount of paperwork which clubs need to file in order to sign a player.
Like any legal or business transaction, transfers can only be approved when the correct forms are signed. This means clubs need to organise documents on player wages, medical forms, transfer agreement between clubs, international clearance and visa issues. For clubs like Cardiff City who have made a number of signings so far including bringing Kenwyne Jones on board. I can only imagine the amount of forms and contracts the club administrators are dealing with right now!
The craziest thing is we’ve seen The Premier League embrace technology on the pitch to simplify processes and regulation, as with goal-line technology. Which begs the question – why have they not embraced advanced technology off the pitch?
Believe it or not clubs still have to dust off their fax machine every year in order to send these documents to their opposite number before the deadline closes. Far from the most technologically advanced pieces of hardware in the digital age, faxes are slow and prone to breakdown. When clubs are pushing through a last minute contract, this can be a devastatingly costly failure, both in terms of the finances of the club as well as its performance during the football season.
We’ve already seen this happen in the NFL just last year. The Denver Broncos were left in serious trouble when linebacker Elvis Dumervil and his agent experienced issues with their fax machine, meaning his contract renewal was sent six minutes past the deadline. When the Broncos did not receive the paperwork, they were forced to release Dumervil in lieu of guaranteeing his salary for the upcoming season. As a result, the Broncos were left with more than $4 million in dead money which could not be used against their salary cap. With so much at stake financially in the sporting world, these issues need to be addressed.
The solution? Get the fax out of football!
In the US, electronic signatures have been adopted by the NFL Player’s Association in order to avoid such a contract-signing fiasco happening again. It’s ridiculous to think that multi-million contracts are still being handled through a piece of outdated technology like the fax machine.
As Premier League clubs struggle to handle the administration involved in signing and selling players, technology like DocuSign’s eSignature solution could prove invaluable. There is definite excitement for fans in hearing that a star player has signed to their team at the last minute. However, there can also be anger when they hear a deal has fallen through as paperwork has not been put through in time.
So let’s get the fax out of football. Let’s spend less time on administration and more time on watching and playing the beautiful game.
By Neil Hudspith, Chief Revenue Officer, DocuSign