A draft is a process used to allocate certain players to sports teams. In a draft, teams take turns selecting from a pool of eligible players. When a team selects a player, the team receives exclusive rights to sign that player to a contract, and no other team in the league may sign the player.
The best-known type of draft is the entry draft, which is used to allocate players who have recently become eligible to play in a league. Depending on the sport, the players may come from college, high school or junior teams or teams in other countries.
An entry draft prevents expensive bidding wars for young talent and ensures that no one team can sign contracts with all of the best young players and make the league uncompetitive. To encourage parity, teams that do poorly in the previous season usually get to choose first in the postseason draft, sometimes with a "lottery" factor to discourage teams from purposely losing.
Other types of drafts include the expansion draft, in which a new team selects players from other teams in the league; and the dispersal draft, in which a league's surviving teams select players from the roster of a newly defunct franchise.
Drafts are usually permitted under anti-trust or restraint of trade laws because they are included in collective bargaining agreements between leagues and labor unions representing players. These agreements generally stipulate that after a certain number of seasons, a player whose contract has expired becomes a free agent and can sign with any team. They also require minimum and sometimes maximum salaries for newly drafted players.
National Football League President Joseph Carr instituted a draft in 1935 as a way to restrain teams' payrolls and reduce the dominance of the league's perennial contenders.〔Michael MacCambridge, ''America's Game''. New York: Random House, 2004. ISBN 0-375-50454-0.〕 It was adopted by the precursor of the National Basketball Association in 1947; by the National Hockey League in 1963; and by Major League Baseball in 1965, although draft systems had been used in baseball since the 19th century.〔Paul Dickson, ''Dickson Baseball Dictionary''(Third ed.) s.v. Draft. Norton: 2009. ISBN 978-0-393-06681-4.〕
Drafts are uncommon outside the U.S. and Canada, and most professional football clubs obtain young players through transfers from smaller clubs or by developing youth players through their own academies. The youth system is operated directly by the teams themselves, who develop their players from childhood. Parity in these leagues is instead maintained through promotion and relegation, which automatically expels the weakest teams from a league in exchange for the strongest teams in the next lower league. The result is a drastically different endgame for poor teams: a North American sports team may see the opportunity to get better through the draft after a poor season, but a European club will instead be relegated down to a league with less money and prestige, potentially exacerbating the problems.
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