World Football

What are FIFA’s new loan regulations and how will they affect football?

Sudesh BaniyaSudesh Baniya
January 23 2022
new loan regulations
(Courtesy : Premier League/Sky Sports)

The new regulations are expected to come into effect from July 2022 after approval from FIFA Council’s next meeting.

As a part of FIFA’s broad project to streamline the player transfer system, a new set of rules regarding loan spells is set to come into effect. The regulations are set to follow the decision passed by IFA Football Stakeholders Committee last year. Wealthy sides have always tended to be on the sunny end. They have hoarded talents and loaning them out to smaller sides to reap benefits if the spell is successful. This has, as per FIFA’s understanding, disrupted the competitive balance between clubs.

From the full details about the new set of loan regulations to the effects and repercussions that it will have in football, here’s all that you need to know about it.

What will be changed?

The new regulations have been introduced to ‘develop young players, promote competitive balance and prevent the hoarding of players’. It will see changes being made to the number of departing and incoming loanees allowed. Furthermore, changes in the minimum and maximum loan time, club-to-club loan ratio are also proposed.

First, and perhaps the most striking change is the limit set in the maximum number of loans per season. Starting 2022/23, clubs will be able to loan out only eight players a season. This number will reduce to six by 2024/25. In order to transition smoothly, the plan will be executed in three steps, with the 2023/24 season making seven loan outs valid. There’s no limit in terms of the numbers at present.

The second major regulation is regarding the terms and formalities of loans. A loan deal must last at least two windows, and should not exceed one year. Similarly, a detailed written agreement, detailing the nuances like financial terms and duration, will be compulsory in each move. In addition, at any given time, a club will not be allowed to send more than three players to the same team and vice versa.

Who will be most affected by this change?

Billy Gilmour is one of the 21 Chelsea players out on loan (Courtesy: Pride of London)

The general answer to this question would be all the big and wealthy clubs in Europe. What has been called ‘talent hoarding’ in recent years, big clubs love to acquire any budding and upcoming talent first. However, there are a few standouts. European champions Chelsea will be one of them, with Atalanta being the other.

The Blues have 21 players out on loan in the current season and have built a reputation out of it. A large pool of Chelsea’s youngsters are on loan and the club will likely call only a few back to Stamford Bridge ultimately. Chelsea will have to trim the count next season, which might result in departures of Billy Gilmour, Conor Gallagher, Armando Broja, Michy Batshuayi, or Tiemoue Bakayoko. The space will only be tighter as the number decreases to six in two seasons’ time.

On the other hand, the rising Italian side Atalanta will have a bigger problem in hand due to the new loan regulations. Cheeky loan strategy has contributed significantly to the side’s recent rise. Atalanta are notoriously known for using loan spells to ensure game time and draw players back when they’re experienced. Hence, the side currently has 63 players out on loan. Not only will they have the challenge to trim the loan-outs, but to get around and find another source of talent production.

How can clubs potentially work around this?

While there will be constraints, there will be loopholes that can be opened. The new loan regulations exempt players under 21 and younger, as well as club-trained players. That is to say, players loaned out or brought on loans that are under 21 will not be counted at all. Hence, loaned out teenagers will be allowed, and subtracting the number, Atalanta will have 17 players left.

In addition, club-trained players, a term that does not have a rigid definition yet, will be off the books as well. The next council is likely to determine the parameter. This is likely to be any player between 15 to 21 years of age who has trained for at least three years at the club. Clubs that acquire young players, and keep them for three years at the academy will be able to loan them out.

Considering the uncertainty, Leeds United’s current recruitment policy might be an exemplary practice. Marcelo Bielsa’s side normally sign young players for their under-23 side. Tehn they promote them to the first team after a couple of seasons. Using this approach, Pascal Struijk already qualifies as homegrown talent, albeit joining the side relatively late.

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