Du Malone writes: This post is the second in a series dealing with the topics of contracts, their negotiation, and agents. The post explores the question of when contracts should be negotiated.

A pitfall in the negotiation of contracts in FM concerns sub-optimal timing. Specifically, there’s a tendency to seek to deal with lots of contracts at once, usually at, or the near, the end end of the season.

This tendency arises, in part, from the phenomenon discussed in the previous post, namely thinking of contracts as ‘admin’: thinking of them that way is apt to make them sound boring and inessential, in which case the natural response will be to delay dealing with them.

A default position of leaving contracts to the season’s end can entail problems.

First, when we negotiate a contract with a player, we try to get it as close as possible to the ideal for the context in which we’re negotiating. But contexts change — and the manner in, and speed at, which they change will vary from player to player.

It follows that contracts will need to be negotiated at various times. Certainly in my own saves, I’ve found that thinking in terms of a rolling programme of negotiation, rather than periodic binges, tends to work best. A long march through the world of contracting, if you like.

A second problem of negotiating several contracts at the same time of year is fatigue. By the time you get to, say, your eighth contract and an agent is tediously demanding a higher unused sub bonus, your resistance has been ground down.

Many factors affect the optimal timing of negotiations. Here are some examples:

  1. A player is developing fast, putting in good performances, and beginning to attract interest from elsewhere. Getting the player onto a new contract might dispel that interest — or at least raise the level of the bid you receive.
  2. Even better would be to anticipate such a case by offering the contract before other clubs express interest — though, of course, that’s easier said than done.
  3. As one thinks ahead about the shape of the squad for next season, and perhaps beyond, one begins to arrive at judgements about which players feature in those plans. I find this certainly happens from mid-season onwards, but often happens well before that. In fact, planning and reviewing is, or at least can be, more like a continual process. In which case, why delay? Once you’re confident that a player features in your medium-, or even long-, term plan, why not offer them the contract required?
  4. I sometimes seek to renew contracts as the pre-season develops. During the pre-season, various developments often make the situation regarding squad composition more clear. For example, a player you would have liked to have retained insists on moving; you fail to land a transfer target; someone sustains a long-term injury. Such developments have knock-on effects: for  example, a back-up  player becomes less marginal. In which case, it might now make sense to offer a revised contract.
  5. In such cases, it’s good if possible to get in before the competitive season starts. Generally, if you negotiate a bonus (such as an avoid-relegation bonus) before the competition starts, it will apply to the coming season: whereas if you delay until the competition has started, it will apply only to the following season. Equally, if you negotiate too early, before the out-going season has properly closed, there may be a problem concerning which bonuses are available. For example, maybe you’ve qualified for a higher level competition, but bonuses for performance in that competition aren’t yet showing up.
  6. I’ve argued elsewhere (in ‘How to manage in a crisis‘) that one instrument to use when trying to turn round a bad run is contract renewal.

A by-product of the ‘long march’ approach that I’m advocating here is that, when that time comes, around season’s end, that is often associated with the task of negotiating a myriad contracts, there’s often little (or, very occasionally, actually nothing) to be done. It makes for a more relaxing life.

Next in the series: Deal breakers: knowing your fallback position

Previous post in the series: Approaching contracts in FM

Image credit: ‘Contracts’ by Credit Score Guide, generously made available under a CC BY 2.0 licence.

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