Football winter transfer window is shut in most of the countries (leagues) and you still don’t have a club, so you are probably wondering if a free player or an amateur can still get a transfer to a new club.
Everybody knows that football players are divided into two categories: amateurs and professionals. However, if you are playing football with your friends or for a club in unofficial matches, it doesn’t mean that you are an (official) amateur.
Division between official and unofficial amateurs is a bit complicated
Actually all players (amateur as well) must be registered with an association to be eligible to participate in organised football. The only difference is that a professional footballer has a written contract with a club and is paid more than he spends for the expenses he has training and playing football.
So if you are getting paid a hundred euros per match and you use that money to cover your fuel expenses this means that you are an amateur football player, but only if you are registered with your association.
How to get registered or transferred as a professional or amateur?
Professional footballer may only get registered or transferred during one of the two annual registration periods (also known as the transfer period or transfer window), however there is one exception that we will explain a little later.
For amateur competitions, the national association specifies the periods when players may be transferred and/or registered and so the amateur transfer windows differ in each country. In cases where associations don’t specify the dates (and there are plenty of them) a player can transfer domestically at any time during the season. However associations can limit the registration of the player (for example) to a maximum of three different clubs in one season, or establish that in the last rounds of the competition no new players can be registered.
Beacon of light for unemployed professional players
A professional whose contract expires before the end of a transfer window and is now unemployed (or in the case of just cause for termination of a contract), may be registered later in the season, but only if a national association confirms the transfer or registration. And transfers like this are usually a big exceptions as the association must consider the integrity of the whole competition in this case as well.
A player who has mutually agreed with his club on the early termination of the employment relationship before the expiry of the transfer window also falls under this exception and can search for a new club during the season.
Let us sum up. So called “free agents” (players) do not have to be signed during the normal transfer window, but if they are signed by a team, they will most likely be able to be registered and play for it only after the next transfer window.
The case of Sol Campbell
If a player is released from their club when the transfer window is closed, they cannot sign for another team until the window reopens as well. A notable case of this being Sol Campbell who in September 2009 was released from Notts County, just after a month from signing on a free transfer. He signed for his former club Arsenal in January 2010, after spending a few months training with the team to maintain his fitness.
Transfer window in the country you want to play in
The transfer window of a given football association governs only international transfers into that football association. International transfers out of an association are always possible to those associations that have an open window. The transfer window of the association that the player is leaving does not have to be open.
The last exception to the rule
Outside of the transfer window, a club may still sign players on an emergency basis, usually if they have no goalkeeper available. Special dispensation from their competition’s governing body, for example the Premier League, is required.
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