When one mentions the term ‘Emergency Loan’, most people immediately think to likes of Wonga and other such ‘Pay Day Lenders’; not many think about the lending and borrowing football players or the football loan system.

It is commonplace for football clubs to bring a player in ‘on loan’ in order to replace an injured player or to strengthen their squad. What most people don’t realise is that loans made outside of FIFA’s transfer window are classed as an ‘emergency loan’.

Article 10(1) of the FIFA Transfer and Status of Players states that,

A professional may be loaned to another club on the basis of a written agreement between him and the clubs concerned. Any such loan is subject to the same rules as apply to the transfer of players, including the provisions on training compensation and the solidarity mechanism.


Essentially a player can only be loaned between clubs under the football loan system, if the registration is transferred during the relevant transfer windows.


When the transfer window was introduced in 2002, FIFA appreciated that English lower league clubs have smaller squads and recognised the value of those clubs supplementing their smaller squads with loan players. However, last season there were over 500 ‘emergency’ loans in England. This has left FIFA disgruntled as the world governing body deemed English clubs to be abusing the football loan system (they are probably right!). FIFA maintain that transfer activity should be restricted strictly to the two transfer windows (in the summer and January). As a result of this the emergency football loan system is under threat from FIFA.

Emergency loans can range from 28 days to 93 days. The lending and borrowing clubs can agree that the said player be recalled to his parent club in accordance with section 53.3.8 of the Football League regulations, after the 28 day mark. Lower league managers are generally critical of FIFA’s transfer window, labelling it as unnecessary and restrictive. However, the emergency loan window gives them an opportunity to replenish injury-ravaged squads ahead of important league games.

The emergency football loan system does have a number of other advantages;

  1. It provides players who are not getting regular football with the opportunity to get match practise and keep their fitness levels up.
  2. Emergency loans can also be vital for the development of young players. Most Premier League and Championship clubs have under 21 squads; the under 21 league (although full of technical quality) does not provide young players with a true experience of professional football. The emergency loan system provides a further opportunity for these young players to develop.
  3. Furthermore, from an agent’s perspective it is a good opportunity to get your player in the shop window.

In recent seasons high profile players such as Ravel Morrison, Fabio Borini and Shay Given have been on emergency loans to Football League clubs. May of these loans spells have been particularly successful with clubs getting promoted as a result of the extra boost of quality and ‘fresh legs’ brought into the club just in time for the appropriately named ‘business end’ of the season.

Note that Premier League clubs cannot sign players on emergency loans as they have to submit a 25 man squad at the end of each transfer window to the Premier League.

It is obvious that the emergency football loan system is vital to Football League clubs and managers. FIFA had planned to scrap the emergency loan privilege afforded to English clubs at the end of this current season. However, after a meeting of FIFA’s executive committee it was decided that the current system will remain in place in order to “protect the sporting integrity of competitions”. It is not often FIFA get it right (cue rants over the new agent’s regulations / lack of them and the Qatar world cup debacle), but on this occasion they have and so look out for even more emergency loans in the 2015/2016 season.


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