Footballers playing for more than one team in a season

The transferring of football players

The transfer system is an intrinsic part of the sport of football. It enables players to move from club to club to improve their fortunes and that of the club acquiring their services.

Are there rules which limit how many clubs a player can play for in one season?

Currently, under the FIFA Transfer Regulations, a football player is only allowed to be registered with a maximum of three clubs in one season. This also applies regardless of what country that player has plied his trade in, whether that is in Europe, Africa or South America.

During this period, the player is only eligible to play official matches for two clubs. However, a player may be eligible to play in official matches for a third club during the relevant season if he has moved between two clubs belonging to associations with overlapping seasons (ie, start of the season in summer/autumn as opposed to winter/spring). This is only allowed if he has fully complied with his contractual obligations towards his previous clubs.

Can a player be prevented from representing a number of teams in a particular competition?

If a football player is registered to a team in the English FA Premier League, he could play in the following domestic competitions:

  • the FA Premier League
  • the FA Cup
  • the English Football League (EFL) Cup

If a player has already represented another team in a match in the FA Cup or the EFL Cup, they will not be able to represent their new club in that competition during the same season. This is known as being cup tied.

However, this rule does not apply to the FA Premier League, meaning a player can play for more than one club in that competition in the same season.

Why do the cup competitions have the notion of being cup tied?

As the cup competitions in England only contain a certain number of matches it is regarded as unfair if a team can buy a player who has already played in the competition for another club to bolster their chances of winning the trophy.

Accordingly, a player can only play for one club in either the FA Cup or the EFL Cup in a particular season.

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For more information on:

  • What effect did the creation of transfer windows have on this rule?
  • Does this only apply to players moving between Premier League clubs?
  • Does this concept also apply to European competition?