After the legalization of professionalism in 1885, the players were theoretically in a position to sell their labour  to whoever they wished. To ensure that the balance of power in the relationships between clubs (businesses) and their players (the workers) remained firmly in favour of the clubs, the FA introduced  the ‘retain and transfer’ system, which  gave clubs a great deal of power over the players. Once signed, having collected a maximum fee of £10, the player effectively became the property of the club.

The first player to be transferred for over £100 (£9,000)*  was Willie Groves (Scotland) who went from West Bromwich Albion to Aston Villa in 1893.

Andy McCombie(Scotland) was transferred from Sunderland to Newcastle United  in February 1904 for a fee of £700 (£61,000)*

Alf Common (England) was the first four figure player.
In February 1905, he moved from Sunderland to Middlesbrough for £1,000 (£86,879)*

1913 George Utley (England)from Barnsley to Sheffield United  £2,000 (£180,000)*

1913 Percy Dawson (England), from Heart of Midlothian  to Blackburn Rovers £2,500 (£225,000)*

1922 Syd Puddefoot (England), from West Ham to Falkirk  £5,000 (£192,500)*

1922 Warney Cresswell (England), from South Shields to Sunderland £5,500 (£211,750)*

1925 Bob Kelly (England)from Burnley to Sunderland  £6,550 (£ 310,700)*

1928 David Jack (England)from Bolton to Arsenal  £10,890 (£534000)*

1932 Bernabé Ferreyra (Argentina), from Tigre to River Plate  £23,000 (£1,230,500)*

* approximate 2012 value in brackets.