Monday, August 8, 2022

In the ‘eBay of football’ that clubs like Arsenal and Man Utd use to find transfer deals

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Some of the Premier League’s biggest clubs use TransferRoom to find vital information on goals, slip into selling clubs’ DMs and advertise the players they want to get rid of, writes Mark Douglas

Football as an industry has never been richer. But the number of clubs struggling financially in European football remains depressingly high.

Try as he might, Jonas Ankersen just couldn’t understand it.

In his early thirties, Ankersen was a successful entrepreneur and businessman whose brother Rasmus was part of the ‘moneyball’ approach that worked wonders at Brentford and FC Midtyjlland. And he thought he had the answer: the transfer market was broken.

Clubs paid too much, no one knew who was available and a veil of secrecy prevented money and players from moving from clubs that had them to clubs that needed them. It relied too much on networks or agents and he couldn’t understand why nobody had thought to fix it.

“I’ve always been a football fan since I was a kid and I was curious about how the economics of the sport works – or doesn’t work,” he says I.

“I’ve seen how online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon have transformed commerce transactions in general, and how specialized platforms, particularly in real estate, have transformed their industries.

“But football seemed behind the times compared to something like the housing market. The way transfers were made was inefficient and I decided I wanted to try to get the system into 21St Century.”

His invention was TransferRoom, which is now in its fifth year and is becoming the transfer market’s best kept secret.

“I did a lot of market research with clubs and other stakeholders before launching TransferRoom and the result was always the same: difficulty accessing credible market information and a general lack of transparency,” says Ankersen.

“Those in charge who made decisions worth millions worked in the dark. Very often there was no direct line of communication between decision makers.

“The result was that buying clubs didn’t have a reliable way of finding out which players were available for a transfer and selling clubs didn’t know what player profile the buying clubs were looking for.

“Buying clubs want information about as many relevant options as possible, while selling clubs want to be able to choose from as many potential buyers as possible. That is TransferRoom’s mission: to give everyone involved in player transactions greater market access and greater transparency.”

It’s amazingly easy to use – the equivalent of eBay in football. Log in, tap on the position you are looking for and a list of available players will appear. You can send direct messages to clubs around the world asking for players, and clubs can even post football lonely hearts there: asking for a player to play a specific position and at the same time posting their budget for that player.

Over 650 clubs from every continent now use it, and every Premier League side has a subscription – which can range from a few hundred pounds to five-figure fees, depending on the level. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Everton and Newcastle have all made deals through the platform.

This is where English clubs won’t try to spend their big bucks. But mid-level players are often traded there, and a star listed on the platform is worth around £20m.

Thousands of deals have now been completed on the platform. Jürgen Locadia’s move from Brighton to Bochum was made exclusively on TransferRoom; Ethan Galbraith joined Doncaster from Manchester United.

Arsenal sourced moves for youngsters Harry Clarke and Nikolaj Moller on the platform.

A leader I spoke to said the platform’s biggest selling point is that it connects clubs. While it would never replace scouting, negotiating, and negotiating the biggest deals, it’s now “essential” to moving players forward.

They recently re-launched their ‘Deal Days’ – football’s equivalent of speed dating, with 15-minute slots for executives from some of the biggest clubs in Europe to meet up with fellow recruiters and discuss transfers.

Now that the veil of secrecy has been lifted, there is a belief that dealmakers will never return to backroom deals or hand power to a select few.

Ankersen says: “We want to develop a complete solution for clubs, so that they have real-time access to all the market data they need and make TransferRoom as important to clubs as Bloomberg is to a financial trader.”

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