Football: Player transfers and cultural differences

By Amrit Johal Sports Legal Consultant

Moving from one country to another involves all kinds of issues, including legal, tax,  practical and cultural ones. This is particularly so in the case of foreign football players transferring from a club abroad to an English one.

In this post, we will take a brief look at the importance of appreciating and taking into account cultural differences when negotiating – which can be succinctly described as ‘getting to yes’ and, equally, making it easy for the other party to say ‘yes’ – these transfers and concluding the corresponding agreements involving foreign players.

But what is meant by culture?

One generally accepted commercial definition of culture is: ‘the way we do things around here’.

Another more sophisticated and social definition of culture according to the Council of Europe – not to be confused with the European Union Commission, which are separate organisations in Europe – is as follows:

“Culture is the respect for identity and diversity…. as the basis for respectful and tolerant living together in an ever-more complex world.”

For example, when negotiating with people from the Far East, “yes” does not necessarily mean I agree with you, but may mean “yes” I hear you; or “yes” I understand you; or “yes” that is interesting; or even “yes” I will consider it.

As mentioned, respect for another person’s point of view and culture is very important when negotiating the terms and conditions of the transfers of foreign players. Do not treat them as ‘funny foreigners’ – if you will pardon that expression!

In line with this, the three ‘Ps’ of successful negotiating come into their own: patience; politeness; and persistence; especially the middle one. Being aggressive and rude and raising your voice achieves nothing! As the old saying has it: ‘softly, softly, catch your monkey!’

Equally, negotiating effectively requires time and timing. Allow yourself the time needed. Do not rush or impose deadlines, if you can avoid them. This, of course, is not always possible when negotiating football transfers, many of which, in practice, are concluded at the very last minute – just before the ‘transfer window’ deadline expires.

Also, preparation is key as encapsulated in the other ‘Ps’ of successful negotiating which come into play, namely: ‘proper preparation prevents poor performance’. In particular, do your homework on the other negotiating party and acquaint yourself with the cultural practices, norms and niceties of his/her country. Incidentally, women tend to make better negotiators than men.

Always keep an open mind and do not pre-judge issues or outcomes.

Furthermore, no two negotiations are the same: thus, an individualistic rather than a standardised approach is required in each case.

As experienced negotiators, we provide guidance and representation of players and clubs on all aspects of effective negotiating and getting the best results for our clients. In doing so, we take a holistic and personal approach, because each case depends on its own particular facts and circumstances, including, in the case of football players, the stage in their playing careers, as well as their expectations – both real and unrealistic.

Finally, we never lose sight of what have come to be known as the ‘golden rules’ of negotiating, namely: ‘in a good negotiation everybody wins something’ – compromise is the name of the game – and ‘never go for the last cent’.

We always aim, therefore, at achieving a win-win result and an outcome that is tailored to the particular needs of each individual case!

Amrit Johal may be contacted by e-mail at ‘law@amritjohal.co.uk’