July 12, 2020

Football's Retain and Transfer System Explained

by 1959 George Easton Newcastle United's gifted inside left had become unhappy with lifeless and James's Park East image or Newcastle in 1956 his two first season saw the club finished near the foot of the first division and a more general disappointment had begun to fester like so many of his peers Easton believed that he was underpaid he also felt that the housing that the club provided his family was unsatisfactory and was irritated that with English football still operating under a maximum wage Newcastle had reneged on a promise to provide supplementary employment to top-up his wages Easton had also been annoyed that the club had prevented him from touring with England's under-23 site and in a further affront that they'd started quibbling over providing match tickets to his father upset and keen on a move south to Arsenal he declined a new contract and requested a transfer Newcastle refused Easton made two more requests but was denied each time with one club director apparently saying that he'd rather see Eastern shovel coal than play for Arsenal and with the Football League still governed by the retain and transfer system that might have been the end of the matter retain and transfer dated back to the late 19th century he was introduced in 1893 as a means of controlling professionalism and preventing imbalances it meant as all future transfer systems would that a player could only be registered with one club at any one time and that to move a player needed the permission of the club holding his registration the intention had partly been to prevent the game's talent from migrating towards the country's richest clubs the effect however combined with the introduction of the Football League's maximum wage in 1901 was to create a strategy by which footballs early stake holders prevented their employment costs from rising primarily because the retain and transfer system had a devious fine-print unlike today a club retained the player after the end of his contract he was not free to move if he refused a new contract on what the Football Association judged reasonable terms the club was not obliged to release or even pay him furthermore should he make a transfer request the player again would relinquish his right to a salary now that was the situation in which Eastern found himself but his response would alter the game forever initially Newcastle's refusal to agree to his transfer began a seven-month standoff in the middle of the 1959-60 season the now unpaid Eastham went on strike in a move which described the times and illustrated the players plight he took a job selling Cork in Surrey and actually earned more but the club retained his registration he could not play football now the situation typifies the problem with retain and transfer as Eastham himself described in rebels for the course john Sperling's alternative history of arsenal our contract could bind us to a club for life we had virtually no rights at all a resolution of sorts came in October 1960 when Newcastle finally agreed to a sale for a fee of 47 thousand five hundred pounds Easter Matt last became an Arsenal player at the same time the professional footballers Association under the leadership of Chairman Jimmy Hill was engaged on two fronts they had been in long-term opposition to the maximum wage which was eventually abolished in 1961 but that also been lobbying for transfer market reform the lifting of the wage cap had a positive effect but as recorded by Hill in his autobiography it was decided by a player vote at a series of regional PFA meetings to continue the fight against retain and transfer the Football League had actually promised further reform when it agreed to the end of the maximum wage in 1961 but it hadn't been forthcoming and while Eastern was by that point an Arsenal player he remained less than happy with Newcastle claiming that he was still owed up to 600 pounds in Unruh sieved bonus payments the PFA sensed legal opportunity agreeing to fund the Easterns claim and use it as the pivot for a case which ultimately in 1963 would go on all the way to the High Court since the League Chairman had steadfastly clung to the remnants of the retain and transfer system recalled Hill perhaps a spike of honest-to-goodness lore up their backsides might stay them away from it in the decades after current PFA chairman Gordon Taylor claimed that the PFA might have gone bankrupt had they lost the case but fortunately they didn't George Easton wouldn't receive his unpaid bonus the judge a mr.

justice Wilberforce who had a history of finding in favor of workers rights declined to award him damages but he did agree that the transfer system was unfit for purpose Wilberforce reasoned that any rules preventing players from joining a new club after the expiration of a contract were in effect a restraint of trade as a result the Football League was forced into a heavy dilution of retain and transfer tribunals were introduced to arbitrate end of contract situations transfer listed players would still be paid while they searched for new clubs and most importantly they would be allowed to leave for free at the end of a contract if a new one wasn't offered at equal or superior terms Eastham enjoyed an exceptional career he was actually a member of the England squad that won the World Cup in 1966 but this is his real legacy he was the inadvertent author of the biggest change English football would experience until the Bosman ruling of December 1995 [Music].

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