Monday, 13 February 2023

As we await the resolution of the Rovers deadline day debacle, when the club failed to get two deals done on time, a previous case between Nottingham Forest and the Football League is fascinating reading.

Kamil Grosicki’s loan move from West Brom to Forest collapsed when the registration for the player was submitted 15 seconds after the transfer deadline. Forest challenged the decision with a spurious argument that 5:00:15 actually meant that the time was still 5pm.

It’s both ridiculous yet entirely necessary that there had to be a legal judgment over what 5pm actually means. 

When your digital watch simply states “5:00pm”, is it still 5pm? When a shop “shuts at 5pm”, can you reasonably expect it to be open until 5:00:59?

Read it all here – the middle few pages covering EFL clauses can be skipped, but the start and end bits are brilliant. (N.B. Line 6 should read 17:01:00 rather than 17:00:01).

Contra proferentem is a rule of contract interpretation that states an ambiguous contract term should be construed against the drafter of the contract, but even this was not enough to prevent the common-sense ruling being made that 5pm does indeed mean 17:00:00. 

Clearly, you’d expect future drafts of EFL regulations to unambiguously state that obvious fact and prevent any more wasted time and money.

Leicester City signed Adrien Silva 14 seconds too late in August 2017 and he was therefore not allowed to play until the next transfer window. He eventually appeared with squad number 14.

Rovers’ attempt to sign Ethan Brierley went through 7 seconds after the deadline and we’ll now have to wait until the summer for its completion.

The EFL are right to be pedantic about the exact deadline, otherwise they’re opening themselves up to uncertainty in future. If they let through a deal which was 30 seconds late, where does it stop? Is two minutes too late just about ok then? Etc etc.

It appears that the main thrust of Rovers’ argument in the Lewis O’Brien case is that it was the EFL’s requests for superfluous additional information which delayed the deal well after 11pm – such as details of what would happen if Rovers were to be relegated.

Again, the EFL were right not to show any discretion as it’s part of the risk for clubs in doing a deal so close to the deadline. Ensuring the EFL have all the documents they demand – however unnecessary and annoying they may seem – is all part of a process which has to be completed before the deadline. It will be hugely surprising if the appeal is won.

Being strict about such matters helps to create a culture where administrators know that there is absolutely no leeway and it thus hopefully has a positive feedback loop, weeding out incompetence and poor planning in future.

Equally it rewards clubs who are organised, have invested in decent technology and actually met the proper deadline.


While it’s easy to state that this fiasco is yet another example of failure at the club from the last 12 years, there were still such cock-ups in the pre-Venky’s era. 

The transfer of Shefki Kuqi to Crystal Palace in 2006 almost collapsed because Rovers had faxed key documents to a London fish and chip shop! This – and many other niche stories – are included in the new edition of 4,000 Holes, which can be ordered here:


BRFCS Premium Membership Support our independent Rovers content and go ad-free

Latest Articles

    League Table