Alexis Sanchez Inter

Football loan transfer rules: Premier League guidelines, limits & full details

Clubs can arrange for loans when they're short on players, when a key figure has been injured and they need a replacement as soon as possible – or if they want to send one of their players out to get valuable experience elsewhere.

Here's what you need to know about how loans in the Premier League work, what the guidelines around them are, and more.

  1. What is a loan?
  2. How long do loan spells last?
  3. What are the rules for loans?
  4. Why do clubs loan out players?

What is a loan?

A loan in football is when players temporarily leave their club to play for a different one – either in the same league, division or association or to a separate one in another country.

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While transfers are permanent, loans are provisional, with the player returning to the club they are originally contracted to at the conclusion of their loan spell.

How long do loan spells last?

Loans can last from several weeks to multiple seasons.

Players can also go on consecutive loan spells from season to season.

What are the rules for loans?

On-loan players are forbidden to play against their parent club in the Premier League. They are, however allowed to play against their parent club in domestic cup competitions, unless they have already featured in the competition for their former side. This rule is called being cup-tied.

While clubs must respect the timeframe of the transfer window for permanent transfers, loan business can still be conducted after the window shuts twice a season.

New loan rules were introduced for the 2019-20 season by the Premier League, with further restrictions implemented on how top-flight clubs can loan from other sides.

They state that:

  • Premier League clubs may not register more than two players on loan at any one time.
  • The maximum number of loans registrable in the same season is four, and, under no circumstances, shall more than one be from the same club at any one time.
  • Premier League clubs cannot loan to another Premier League club a player they have acquired in the same transfer window.
  • A Premier League club may loan not more than one of its goalkeepers to another Premier League club.

Why do clubs loan out players?

There are a number of reasons why clubs might want to loan out players, though the most common practise is loaning out young players to other clubs in order to benefit from first-team experience they are unable to receive with their parent club.

This practise is commonly carried out by more high-profile Premier League clubs whose roster of big-name players can't accommodate a number of younger, more inexperienced stars.

These clubs might loan their players out to lower league clubs, or even to sides overseas, with the view that the loan spell might give them valued experience.

Additionally, a club might not have had sufficient time to conduct a transfer during the transfer window, leading them to sign a player on loan instead (which they are allowed to do). In this case, clauses are often introduced in which the club might want to purchase the loanee permanently during the next transfer window.

Some loan spells happen due to players being unhappy at their parent club but unable to negotiate a transfer during the summer or winter windows. Senior players might also be frustrated with a lack of playing time, leading them to seek opportunities elsewhere. Some examples include Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, who were both loaned out from Manchester United to Inter in 2019.

A club might also loan out players as they are unable to afford their wages, with the loan club paying some or all of the salary as a result – though wages for loan players differ on a case-by-case basis.