Exclusive - Wouldn’t football transfers be so much easier if they were more like a computer game? You know, transfer list a player, let potential buyers see and expect contact straight away.
It's never actually worked like that, in case you were wondering.
The future is here, however. And the world’s top clubs are these days taking advantage of an online market place called TransferRoom.
TransferRoom is a revolutionary system that allows clubs to trade. In some ways like an eBay or an Amazon, but perhaps more accurately akin to Facebook’s marketplace.
During this window alone, numerous Premier League clubs, Liverpool and Arsenal among them, have used the platform to finalise deals. And 90min spoke exclusively with TransferRoom’s Jonas Ankersen, who was behind the idea. But how did he come up with it?
"I just saw a lot of football clubs getting themselves into financial trouble, particularly back home in Denmark," said Ankersen. "And when I researched the reasons why, the transfer market was a major factor.
"A big problem with the transfer market was – and still can be – the lack of access to reliable, up-to-date information about which players clubs are looking to buy and sell. It seemed bizarre to me that other industries like real estate had harnessed the power of the internet to make their market more transparent and user-friendly, but football hadn’t.
"TransferRoom exists to give everyone involved in the market access to the information they need, and the power to act on it by communicating directly with each other.”
Andersen explains that the benefits are huge for everyone involved in a possible deal – not just one club.
"Becoming a member of TransferRoom gives clubs access to a global network of more than 500 other clubs from 78 leagues in 44 countries - and now to agents at all levels of the game in all four corners of the world.
"Decision-makers have access to reliable, real-time information about the market and are able to share that information and negotiate directly with each other, at the touch of a button. The platform has gained such critical mass that it is now an essential, everyday tool and it is a real disadvantage not to be involved."
The current situation with the Coronavirus pandemic has seen many deals done online, via Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or some other digital service. And surely this played into the hands of TransferRoom.
"TransferRoom was already the number one digital marketplace in football before the pandemic struck. But there has undeniably been a spike in new or enhanced subscriptions and in use of the platform in the last 18 months,” Ankersen confirmed.
"I think the Covid-19 crisis has brought home to existing users how effective it is at saving time and money - especially during a time when there are increased financial pressures on everyone in football and travel is difficult or impossible.
"Clubs who were not already members realised TransferRoom gave them the chance to work effectively at a time of global upheaval, and then discovered how useful it could be as part of their standard recruitment policy.
“Before the pandemic, our Deal Day and Summit events were really popular; especially the speed-dating-style, face-to-face meetings that club decision-makers could have. But since Covid-19 struck and we took the events online, uptake has actually increased.
"I believe TransferRoom has played a key role in keeping the transfer market moving in the last 18 months and has become a standard, everyday tool for clubs all over the world. Without the platform, some deals simply would not have been done."
Ankersen is also quick to dismiss any fears that TransferRoom is in any way trying to replace agents, confirming they are fully part of the system, and points to the fact that numerous leading agencies are involved on the platform.
"Agents are fully welcome and some of the world’s leading agencies were among the first to apply successfully for Trusted Agent status when we launched it this summer," he explained.
"TransferRoom never set out to eliminate agents or make their lives difficult. They are an essential part of the market. But it is true that when we conducted market research ahead of launching the platform in 2017, there was a lot of frustration among clubs about the agent landscape. There were simply so many middle men and so many competing claims about who represented which player and which players were available, that clubs did not know what to believe.
"A big reason why so many clubs signed up so quickly was that decision-makers could share information with each other directly about the players they wanted to recruit, and the players they were looking to sell or loan. There was no longer the need to rely on rumours, hearsay or people pushing their own agenda.
"But it was always our intention to find a way to include agents in our global network. Rather than ignore the challenges posed, we decided to confront them and try to find a way for clubs and agencies to work together better and more transparently.
"So agents are now able to register players they represent, subject to confirmation by their clients and our own checks. When clubs share information about players they are looking for, any agent with a client who fits the profile receives an alert and can then pitch their player(s) to the club. During the current window, an agency pitched a player within 15 minutes of the notification and the contact resulted in a deal.
"It is often forgotten that 75 per cent of transfers involve players who are out of contract or available without a fee. In those circumstances, the former club often has little time or inclination to find a new employer for the player. The financial pressures caused by the pandemic mean more clubs are looking for free agent deals and TransferRoom helps agents and players find the right opportunities.
"Base and Sport360 are two of the big companies who have joined but we welcome agents of all levels to our platform. For clubs, the Agency Feature is an opt-in: if they don’t want to engage with agents on TransferRoom, then they don’t have to, full stop. But about 90 per cent of our member clubs have signed up, which suggests bringing agents on to the platform is a welcome development."
As with any advanced digital platform, advances are crucial and TransferRoom is no different.
"We are constantly looking for ways to improve the platform by developing new features like Trusted Agent, or improving what we already do. We are currently expanding our editorial content in order to provide deeper insights and keep our members informed about developments in the industry.
"We want TransferRoom to be as important to those working in the transfer market as Bloomberg is to financial traders – and we think we’ve already made huge strides towards achieving that. I go back to where it all began: getting transfer policy right is crucial to the wellbeing of clubs at every level and therefore to the sustainability of football as whole. As long as that remains true, TransferRoom will be there helping clubs, agents and players find the right opportunities at the right time."