The term used when a player, known as a ‘free agent’ moves to another club without any money changing hands. This often happens when a player is out of contract, or is considered to be too old to be sold for a transfer fee. A player is considered a free agent when they are not associated with any club as their contract has expired.
A free transfer can also be connected to the Bosman ruling, this being the name of the first player to transfer without a payment.
Are there any restrictions to a free transfer?
Restrictions to a free transfer depend on whether the player is associated with a club and has a contract.
If a player is still contracted to a club then the buying club must not start negotiations until the player enters the final 6 months of their contact. However only foreign clubs can start negotiations when this happens, clubs from the same league or national association must wait until the player’s contract has finished.
In some cases, an individual league or football association have restrictions in place to protect a clubs academy and youth system. This allows a club to keep some control of a leaving youth player thus being able to negotiate a future fee.
An example of this is in the UK where players leaving from youth academies can require a compensation fee to be paid to the owning club. This can depend on age, future potential and home grown status and a court tribunal is required to settle a fee.
Is a free transfer completely free?
In soccer if a free agent has no association with a club, then no fee is required to be paid to another club, hence the term free transfer. However the buying club have to take into account the player’s individual fees and demands as the contract process is being completed. Agent fees are also something to be considered in a free transfer.