BRUSSELS: FIFPro, the world players’ union, has launched a legal challenge aimed squarely at the transfer system and the current economic make-up of professional football.
This follows recommendations from FIFPro’s expert group on transfer matters delivered to the FIFPro board, which approved a strategic plan to address the freedom of movement of workers within the EU, competition law and human rights. FIFPro has said it is “preparing all necessary means, including legal action, to reinstall the world’s professional football players’ rights as workers.”
FIFPro President, Philippe Piat, said: “The transfer system has always and continues by definition to be built on the back of our members’ rights as workers and human beings.
“FIFPro will not stand by and watch from the sidelines as football players’ rights around the world are systemically disrespected and the football industry dismantles itself.”
A statement added: “The FIFA transfer regulations and their practical application continue to impede the players’ freedom to move. Training compensation is calculated against the European Court of Justice’s Bernard ruling at much higher levels than actual cost incurred and increase the price-tag for contracting a player on the transfer market. Exorbitant compensation for breaches of contract is imposed on players, unimaginable in any other industry.
“More so, the threat of sporting sanctions for breaches of contract during the protected period is constantly maintained through the renewal of contracts. This was never envisaged in 2001, when FIFA, UEFA and the European Commission reached an informal agreement on the principles of the transfer system.
“These legal and monetary shackles binding footballers (the employees) to their current clubs (the employers) can no longer be accepted and upheld.
“The transfer system fails 99pc of players around the world, it fails football as an industry and it fails the world’s most beloved game. Football’s governing bodies, clubs and leagues claim the transfer system is necessary to ensure competitive balance, whereby in fact it creates a spiral of economic and sporting imbalance, which only benefits the richest one per cent of clubs and player agents.
“Football players are workers and only when they are able to enjoy the rights enshrined in law and enjoyed by all other workers, will FIFPro be satisfied”, added Piat who announced the transfer system as his “top priority” when elected FIFPro President in October.
Europe historically has played a leading role in the fight for football players’ rights (as with the landmark Bosman ruling) and FIFPro identifies Europe as the stage where this transforming battle will play out. FIFPro will take its recommendations and complaints to the European Commission, the European Court of Justice and human rights courts.
FIFPro Division Europe President, Bobby Barnes, said, “Despite football enjoying record amounts of revenue, football’s regulatory and economic system fails miserably on numerous fronts and drives the professional game towards self-destruction. Destruction through a systemic disrespect for those on the pitch. Destruction through a failure to achieve competitive balance and financial stability. Destruction through an absence of responsible governance, which invites criminals to abuse our game.”
“Thousands of players worldwide are not paid on time, or not at all, while 28pc of the global transfer market (an estimated $750m annually) is paid to agents and lost to the game. Something is not right with this picture.
“Unpaid players are vulnerable targets of crime syndicates, who instigate match-fixing and threaten the very existence of credible football competitions. The current industrial model of football in general fails to ensure a professional management and compliance culture that is capable of safeguarding our game against internal and external abuse. In contrast, in the absence of competitive balance it encourages speculative, unsustainable, immoral and illegal investment models like third party ownership of players.”
Theo van Seggelen, General Secretary of FIFPro: “FIFPro sits at the same table as FIFA, whose regulations govern the current transfer system, UEFA, the European Clubs Association (ECA), the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL), and we will remain at that table.”
“We are firmly committed to dialogue, provided that all stakeholders possess an honest will to critically question the status quo and a will to implement fundamental changes, now. But, FIFPro will not be limited in its means to bring about change.”