Rule L19: Why Robbie Keane is not returning to Spurs

Hacks across the Britain furiously scribbled the same story this morning after football pundit Mark Lawrenson claimed that Steven Gerrard had let slip that Robbie Keane is a goner at Anfield.

The Times’ James Ducker wrote: “Keane has struggled since moving to Anfield from Tottenham Hotspur in a projected £20.3 million deal last summer and has been linked with a return to White Hart Lane, even though Rafael Benítez, the Liverpool manager, has denied suggestions he could let the Ireland striker leave in the January transfer window.”

There appears to be a common misunderstanding, or lack of knowledge surrounding the buying-back of footballers, and it is starting to verge on the ignorant and stupid.

According to Premier League’s Rules of The Association and Laws of the Game Season 2008–2009, Rule L19: “A Club which transfers or cancels the registration of a Player may not apply to register that Player within a year except with the prior written consent of the Board.”

So, what does this mean.

Simply put, when a club offloads a player from their books, their is a blanket prohibition on that club resigning the player for the next 12 months. And there is a common-sense reason why this rule exists, it acts as a safeguard against clubs abusing the loan system whereby a club could “sell” a player then “buy them back” at a later date and avoid the strict rules governing loan deals.

The only exception to rule L19 is when the FA are swayed by some special reason that would demand such a transfer be ratified. And, to date, the precedent for going against the essence of rule L19 has been interpreted very narrowly.

The most high-profile exception to L19 has been former England international Chris Powell, as the Premier League ruled he could rejoin Charlton six months after leaving the Addicks for West Ham. Yet crucially in that instance, Powell was a free agent at the time of the decision having been released by the Hammers. Only because Powell was without a club was he allowed to rejoin the South Londoners.

The same does not apply to Robbie Keane, who cannot resign for Spurs in the January sales.

Hacks, please learn the rules!