The EFL rule loophole that means Preston North End COULD sign new players during Championship suspension

Preston North End are not set to take to the field until April 30 at the earliest - but could Alex Neil add new players to his squad before the return to action?

Monday, 23rd March 2020, 11:20 am
Preston North End manager Alex Neil.

With a number of contract dilemmas already facing clubs given the extended nature of the season, managers could be tempted to turn to free agents or loanees to bolster their ranks.

But what do the EFL rules say about adding new faces? We take a look:

Can Preston sign free agents during the EFL suspension?

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Yes, but only until Thursday, March 27.

This is the date laid out by the EFL for the final registration of players - meaning no players can be added to a squad following this date.

That means that the Lilywhites will have to act quickly if they want to secure any new signings for when football resumes.

Can any players be signed after this date?

Traditionally, no. The EFL tend to enforce this rule rigidly in order to protect the integrity of the competition.

The league guidelines state: “The fourth Thursday in March is the traditional ‘transfer deadline day’ and remains in place to ensure Clubs cannot add to their squad for the final remaining fixtures of a Season thus impacting on the integrity of the competition in those final stages.”

There is, however, a loophole...

What is the loophole?

There is a stipulation in the EFL rules that clubs CAN sign players after March 27, but only in certain scenarios.

The most common of these is when the side requires a goalkeeper due to injury or unavailability, in which case they will be allowed to secure an emergency goalkeeper loan. These deals can be completed after March 27.

Any other signings, however, must be completed before this traditional deadline.

Could these rules change?

There is, of course, the possibility that the EFL could tweak the registration deadline to allow teams more freedom to add players given the complex nature of this season.

However, such guidance may have to come from FIFA - who ultimately ratify the registration periods allowed in each country.