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In association football, the transfer window is the period during the year in which a football club can transfer players from other countries into their playing staff. Such a transfer is completed by registering the player into the new club through FIFA. "Transfer window" is the unofficial term commonly used for the concept of "registration period" as described in the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Player. According to the rules, each national football association decides on the registration periods used in that association. FIFA mandates two registration periods. The first registration periods starts at the end of the season and may not exceed 12 weeks. The second registration period occurs during the season and may not exceed 4 weeks.

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 window was introduced in response to negotiations with the European Commissionmarker. The system has been used in many European leagues before being brought into compulsory effect by FIFAmarker during the 2002-03 season. However, the exact regulations and possible exceptions are established by each competition's governing body rather than by the national football association.

Current schedules and exceptions

FIFA regulates in general that there shall be two windows, a longer one (max. twelve weeks) in the break between two seasons and shorter one (max. one month) in the middle of a season. The specific periods depend on the league's season cycle and are determined by the national football authorities.

When a league commences in the second half of the year (eg. August or September) and stretches over two calendar years (autumn-spring season in the Northern Hemisphere), the first window is usually open from 1 July until midnight of 31 August and the second one from 1 January until midnight on 31 January the same year. Most major European leagues have adopted this scheme.

The periods differ when a league runs throughout a single calendar year, as in most Nordic countries due to weather constraints, or as the traditional season in the Southern Hemisphere. The first window generally opens from 1 March until midnight of 30 April, followed by the in-season window from 1 August to 31 August.

Pre-season window Mid-season window Associations
1 January - 31 March 1 July - 31 July Sweden
1 January - 31 March 1 August - 31 August Norway
15 January - 15 April 15 July - 14 August USA/Canada
1 March - 30 April 1 August - 31 August Finland
1 July - 31 August 1 January - 2 February Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Scotland
1 June - 31 August 1 January - 2 February England

If the last day of a transfer window is on a weekend, the deadline can be extended to the following Monday at the request of those involved for business reasons. The first shift of the deadline since its inception took place in summer 2008, when the deadline was extended by 24 hours to fall on Monday 1 September at midnight. The transfer deadline in England was similarly extended to 5pm 1 September 2009, due to the August Bank Holiday. The German football league has announced to extend the January 2009 deadline to 2 February.

Free agents can be signed by a club at any time in the season, if they had been released by their previous club before the end of the transfer window. A club can request to sign a player on emergency basis, ie if several goalkeepers are injured at the same time. In England, clubs from the Football League Championship to the Football Conference can loan in players from 8 September to 23 November and also from 8 February until 23 March. An existing loan deal can be made permanent at any time outside the transfer window.

The day upon which a window closes is known as transfer deadline day, and is usually one of the busiest days of the window, generating a flurry of transfers, often because a number of interdependant transfers are completed resembling a housing chain, generating much media interest.

Calls to end the transfer window

Steve Coppell, ex manager of Reading in the English Championship, and others have called for the transfer window to be scrapped in favour of the previous system, where deals could be struck throughout the season until the closing weeks. Coppell said that the transfer window breeds panic and encourages “scurrilous” transfer activity adding that “I cannot see the logic in a transfer window. It brings on a fire-sale mentality, causes unrest via the media and means clubs buy too many players” adding that “The old system, where if you had a problem you could look at loans or make a short-term purchase, was far better than this system we have at the moment.”

On the January 2008 deadline day former Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp said the club had received a call at 11.55pm (five minutes before the transfer window closed) from Manchester City to say they had submitted the relevant documents to sign Benjani. Redknapp said "That's when Peter Storrie gave the go-ahead for our forms (to register Jermain Defoe) to go through. Once their forms were sent, we had to get ours off very quickly." Portsmouth were contacted by Premier League officials at 12.15am to say they had not received all the documents to complete the Benjani deal.

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