Premier League clubs have voted narrowly in favour of closing the transfer window before the start of the domestic season, the measure coming into force ahead of the 2018-19 campaign.
The summer transfer window will now shut at 5pm on the Thursday before the first game of the season, with the change affecting only incoming signings. The Premier League is the first European elite division to abandon the deadline on or around August 31st, meaning clubs elsewhere in Europe will be able to buy their players but no replacements could be signed.
Senior executives from the 20 top-flight clubs met in a central London hotel to consider the proposed changes, with in-depth discussions lasting four hours. It is understood 14 clubs voted in favour of the amendment with five against and one abstention, believed to be the Burnley chairman, Mike Garlick.
The five who voted against were Manchester City, Manchester United, Crystal Palace, Watford and Swansea City. United's vote was apparently cast against the wishes of José Mourinho, who said last month that he would "prefer the window to close as soon as possible".
Those opposed to the rule change worry Premier League clubs will be left short if their players are bought after the domestic window shuts and they are unable to replace them.
The move comes after the start of this season was dominated by uncertainty over the future of players such as Leicester City's Jamie Vardy, Everton's Ross Barkley and Gylfi Sigurdsson, who left Swansea City for the Goodison Park club.
The Premier League's chairman, Richard Scudamore, said there was an overwhelming sense that clubs wanted to begin the season with more certainty over their squad.
“Most important was the integrity of the competition between each other,” he said. “So when the 20 are playing each other the idea that you could have a person in your team one week and playing against him the next, or even worse the player not playing because of speculation about him going to another Premier League team so he’s not available for a week or two weeks of the season while the window is open.
“Those were the issues most of the clubs arguing in favour were using, that once the season has started we should know that we can’t possibly sell to another Premier League club. I think they just decided: ‘We’re going to break for the border, go it alone, put our marker down, go with it.’”
Although no specific cases were cited in discussions, closing the window before the start of the domestic season would also avoid the situation that arose when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain played in Arsenal's 4-0 defeat at Liverpool before joining the Merseyside club less than a week later.
It is understood Liverpool's refusal to sell Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona convinced detractors that the Premier League could make a unilateral move without the rest of Europe. Germany's top tier is most likely to follow suit and the Bundesliga hosted a general meeting of club managers on Thursday where the issue was discussed, although it is understood opinion varied widely.
The Premier League also expects that the Football League will copy its example, while the Uefa president, Alexander Ceferin, has backed closing the window earlier in an interview with the German broadcasters ARD.
He said: “Yes, I think that it is open for too long. It is strange that you play for one club when the season starts and then that you can simply play for another one. That is not good for the competition. We are in serious discussions over shortening the transfer window.”
Asked when it should close, Ceferin added: “I think that it is no bad idea to close the window at the end of July.”
Arsène Wenger has also called for January’s mid-season transfer window to be scrapped entirely, with the Arsenal manager saying players are unsettled by speculation linking them with new clubs. But Scudamore insisted that such a move had not been discussed officially.