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Fifa back in court, Barcelona begs to be allowed transfers, as the entire transfer system is challenged

By Tony Attwood

It had to happen sometime: Barcelona currently banned from making transfers are begging Fifa to allow them to play Arda Turan, now.  Turan was signed in the last transfer window as Barcelona found a loophole in their banning order realising they could sign the player, but simply not play him.  Now they argue that as the transfer window is closed they should be able to play him – which of course would nullify the entire purpose of their one year ban.

The irony of this is that the latest scurrilous Barcelona manipulation of the regulations comes as today Fifpro – the players’ union – starts its court action to get the transfer system made illegal in Europe.  The action is being taken in front of the European Commission.

Fifpro (which represents 65,000 players) argues that transfer fees reduces freedom of movement guaranteed in the EU and that the process is anti-competitive because it gives big employers more power than they should have.

This is one of a series of Fifpro attacks on the current system of football – they also support the move to end the loan system, and the end of the “25” limits on player numbers and far greater restriction on agents.

Theo van Seggelen of Fifpro argues that this will be the biggest change to football since Bosman, saying that football has not followed the 2001 settlement that set out variations that football could follow in relation to general European law.  These were agreed by the EC on the basis that football is not competitive in the same way as other businesses because to make it work, leagues have to be restricted, and because fans do not have the same freedom to move between clubs because of the notion of “support”, as consumers do in an open market.

This will be a long haul and could take anything up to a year, followed by another year of bargaining to establish a new set of rules.  That bargaining period could be disastrous for clubs that don’t keep up with the times since they could be paying big transfer fees for players who could possibly walk away after a short while as the law changes.

Fifpro is supported by economist Stefan Szymanski who says that the “wider benefits” argument used to support the current system is not valid that the money taken in transfers then goes on to feed and support clubs in lower leagues as their players are purchased by bigger clubs is not valid.

He argues that “it remains the case that there are better alternatives to achieving the stated policy goals, as observed by Carl Otto Lenz Advocate General at the European Court of Justice in the Bosman case 20 years ago.

“The transfer system sustains the dominance of the elite clubs by ensuring that they are the only ones with the financial muscle to afford the transfer fees payable for the very best players. Thus, as it currently operates, the transfers system is not only unfair to players, it also promotes the opposite of what was intended.

The idea is that contracts will contain a special period of time in which players could not be transferred.  After that a player could buy out the contract and move on.  Such an approach would stop money flowing out of the game and produce stability they argue.

At the same time there is a wish to restrict agents fees, because the current system encourages agents to agitate for a move so that they can get another pay day from arranging the move.  Fifa’s report on the issues shows that agents too £155m out of football in 2014 on international transfers.

For the players (and this is obviously a trade union action so it is all for the players) it is argued that reform will protect players and create more stability as well as improving competitive balance in the game.

Fifpro also wants new regulations covering the guaranteeing of payment of salaries, which of course is an issue in many smaller leagues.  England doesn’t have so much of a problem here because of the “football creditor” rule which means players need to be paid first before the rest of the people owed money when a club goes bust get paid.  Revenue and Customs in the UK has been fighting that for a long time.

The issue of payment of salaries, although rarely making the news in England, is a major one, as a Fifpro study three years ago shows that 42% of players did not receive their salaries on time in one season.

Theo van Seggelen added, “I speak with players from all over the world, from Japan to Bolivia. The only difference between players is that one has a second-hand bike and the other has a Ferrari. All the players have to sacrifice to become a professional player.

“Our top players promote Fifpro, they are happy to be in our world XI, they are happy to be treated like everyone else. That is why the top players in Spain demanded that players in the third division were paid two years ago. We represent 60,000 players and we are united.”

The move overall will take up an issue that was thought initially to have been resolved by the Webster Ruling.

In September 2006 Andy Webster of Herts became the first player to exploit updated Fifa regulations which said players can unilaterally walk away from a contract after a fixed period, irrespective of the duration of the contract itself.

At the time the ruling seemed to herald the end of the transfer system although Celtic stated they would sue any player who used the ruling, arguing that a court of law would support them and overturn a ruling of the CAS.  However the CAS ruling has not been challenged in court.

In fact what has happened is that the CAS ruling has been used as a backdrop to discussions, with agents and union officials simply telling clubs in relation to any player who has been at a club for three years, “either offer a new contract, or sell him, or we will invoke the CAS ruling.”

As a result the ruling has been used, but rarely, as agents in particular have urged players to stay and get a transfer deal, so that they (the agents) get their cut.  It is believed that this is one of the reasons why Fifpro is linking reform of agents to the process of ending the transfer system.


25 September 2004:  The 0-1 away defeat of Man City made it 6 wins and 1 draw in the league. Cole scored the goal.  This was also the final match of the longest unbeaten away sequence in league football: 27 games from 5 April 2003.

25 September 2008: Untold Arsenal predicted that Arsenal would sign a midfielder for £40m.  On 2 September 2013 Arsenal signed Mesut Ozil.


The Untold Books





31 comments to Fifa back in court, Barcelona begs to be allowed transfers, as the entire transfer system is challenged

  • colario

    Any arrangement that allows someone outside of football to take money out of football by encouraging players to transfer out off the club they are in cannot be right.

    Also donating three million every year to America can not be right.

  • nicky

    Surprise, Surprise, Barcelona want the rules changed to suit themselves. They’ve already bent them and now they want their bending made legal.
    As for Fifpro, the tail is now firmly wagging the dog.
    Bosman has much for which to answer.

  • genfabrechenko

    still don’t get their point, looks like a more complex ffp.

  • insideright

    Tony is absolutely right in pointing out that, against the background of this case, it would be financially dangerous to be paying out big transfer fees for someone could walk away in only a couple of years time. If it all goes through (and at least some of it is pretty sure to) the emphasis is going to go even more onto developing ones own players who tend to remain more loyal than do the more mercenary variety and to find an alternative to an outlawed loan system.
    The only alternative I can think of would be for clubs with lots of players needing higher level experience to ‘buy’ smaller clubs and set them up in competitive leagues as is done in Spain.
    For all that to happen a club will need a well developed academy system on which to build and lots of money in the bank to fund the ‘B team’ set up – it can’t be sensibly done on loans because that B team won’t make enough money to pay them back.
    Any names of any clubs occurring to anyone that fit this bill?

  • Clockendrider

    “…..the emphasis is going to go even more onto developing ones own players who tend to remain more loyal than do the more mercenary variety….”
    Is there any statistical evidence of this? Certainly our recent experience at Arsenal is that by and large players will go elsewhere if they are offered more money, isn’t it?

  • WalterBroeckx

    If Barcelona would be allowed to play the players they shouldn’t have been allowed to buy in the first place then this would be a big scandal.

    Driving the leaches(=player agents) out of football would be a great thing I think

  • para

    I would love the transfer window to be scrapped.

    Though this would also mean the registration of players for the team before season start would fall under the carpet. Then there is the rule that a player cannot play for two teams in a cup in the same season, that would have to be scrapped too. This would have to be implemented Europe wide if not World wide, as many players come from clubs in different countries. And, and, and….

    I think contracts must be upheld by both club and player. Obviously if both come to an agreement they can both decide on the terms of termination, which will require payment from the player to club if he requested it, and from the club to player if the club requested it, just like in employment. Until an agreement is reached, both are liable to uphold the contract in it’s original form.

    This now open possibilities for player to “not perform” to force termination, and for the club to “bench” the player or send to reserves to force termination.

    In the end the original solution of upholding the contract to its end (but with clear compensation from the contract breaker already mapped out in the contract) seems the right and simplest way to go. We will probably end up back there after years of changing the rules, back to where we once started. 🙂

    Why do these things have to become so complicated? Arggghhhh.

  • para

    BUT, imagine all the transfer dribble we get now, would we be able to cope with that all the year long? 🙂

  • syd

    No transfer system = big clubs scrapping youth set up! Why would they bother wasting money developing player’s when they will have the legal right to tap them up from another club and just offer them more money. Getting rid of the loan system or restricting it would stop the Chelsea’s of this world owning all the top player’s just to stop anyone else having them. Should all be ver interesting

  • Samrat Jha

    think it will be the death of football if Fifpro get what they want. If players can leave a club after a specified period of time mentioned in their contracts without the selling(non existent by then) club getting anything what would a small club like Southampton run its academy for? Now they are selling players at a profit. This profit keeps them afloat. If the whole transfer fee system is abolished then they are not gonna get much,if any. Also it will be the billionaire’s playground if the 25 man squad limit is abolished. The likely scenario is that the club that wants the services of a player will be paying the player to the tune of half a million a week. The money will go out of football in the pockets of greedy players instead.

  • proudkev

    Where there’s money………………

    It is interesting that among all these giant clubs one stands out like a beacon of decency. Ironically its the one that gets the most critiism and abuse. Arsenal.

    We all know that clubs like Real, Barca, City, Chelsea, PSG etc have been largely responsible for the current situation regarding transfer fees and wages. When you are operating a business that does not have to worry about balancing its books,you can spend what you like. This not only creates an uneven playing field and an artificial ceiling but it creates ‘manipulation’ and corruption. Power corrupts. For years we saw that with the way manchester United operated. Nobody ever talks about Leeds United and what happened to them, a genuine big club that gambled with money they did not have, for European success. Spend some fkg money they screamed. FFP was a brave attempt to try to curtail some of the excesses but the power and money was just too much.

    Look at the way the loan system has been used to stockpile players. The loan system was never intended to be abused in the Way Chelsea and teams like them have. We all know about the Barca tricks, which Tomy often mentions.

    We have the world governing body, FIFA, caught up in one of the biggest sports scandal you wil ever see. What is so damning about this is the sheer arrogance and blatant corruption that was going on. It really is funny how despite everyone knowing FIFA was as bent as Ibrahimovichs nose, nobody did anything about it. Nothing. The media ran exposes but football wasnt interested. When the English FA raised issues, they were shouted down.

    For a long time I have suspected that domestic football has not been as honest as we would like. Remember, years back we had the Bruce Grobelaar accusations and the power losses during premiership games. We had the spread betting issues too, where players were ‘fixing’ things like the time of the first throw in.We also have the strange case of the most inept of all referees being promoted to head up PMGOL. Nobody even questions why 90% of the referees come from the North of England. (Just like 90% of the pundoits). The FA find Mike Dean guilty of incompetence yet there are no sanctions,no investigation into why he is allowed to referee Arsenal games, without his labrador accompanying him on the pitch. He gets to referee tomorrow with West Ham, know doubt with a ginat pat on the back from Riley for stitching up Arsenal. I could go on.

    The only way you are going to clear this almighty mess is to introduce some form of transparency and accountability. But with all the money involved and the complex legal issues,nothing will change until enough people start questioning what the hell is going on.

    Sad indictment of where we are really.

  • Agents should have a standard fee percent like real estate agents.

  • proudkev

    *no doubt.

  • Menace

    Transfers, agents, billionaires, contracts, kits are all part of leaching of supporters money. The key thing that should be fought for is ownership of clubs. I think all clubs should have a majority shareholding by supporters. This to be transparently managed by supporter organisation in each club. That will begin the reduction of opportunity to corrupt. It will also curb the ‘rich mans toy’ syndrome that seems to have crept in.

    No windows for transfers. No loans within the same league. Salary cap in each league with insurance of penalties if ‘dodged or evaded’. Lots more can be added …..

    The purpose will always be to protect the integrity of the Game as a sport within the Laws.

  • Samrat Jha

    without salary cap there will be anarchy. Having said that in the unlikely event of a Fifpro win introducing salary cap will be next to impossible. I believe that may violate basic rights of employees…

  • porter

    Colario :-The £3 million is a fee for services rendered if they called it a dividend they would have to pay Usmanov and very few others a bit as well.

  • apo Armani

    September 25, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    Bang on with every word!

  • apo Armani

    As for football agents???

    Is there a worst type of being on the planet? ok maybe politicians!

    But Agents are right up there; I remember one screwing with my brothers career – shifting him from Olympiakos to Fenerbache to Portugal whilst my brother got sweet FA!

  • Pete

    See Blatter is currently being questioned by Swiss detectives…!

  • Clockendrider

    Bloomberg reporting Swiss Authorities have opened proceedings against him…..

  • Pete

    Seems that Platini may be implicated as well…

    Quite incredible. Probably the two most important men in world football (three if you include Valcke) all now directly implicated.


  • finsbury

    FUFA, the pgMOB.

    Birds of a feather?

  • finsbury

    I’ve used the catchphrase:
    “There is no reasonable or rational explanation for the lack of video replay an other aids for the officials in top flight football. Not one.”

    Because I don’t like to see people waste their time and energy. But the sports hacks, they are a different breed:

    And so we’ve seen and heard numerous hacks defend the indefensible protection the Gazprom player had been receiving game after game never mind the startling contrast in the media led witch hunts of Suarez for doing something far less dangerous then poking eyes or deep scratches.
    But on the Manchester Grunt podcast I think that they outdid themselves:
    “Why the need to charge the player?”
    “He was only charged because Brazilian media showed pictures that no one else had” really. Only the Brazilian press managed to find footage of what Costa did? For some unknown reason to fans of Spain or Brazil? Wow. Sounds completely unbelievable but if these sports hacks think this is true, then…maybe Brazilian TV simply use better cameras with better cameramen that other leagues don’t have access to? That must be it. Nevermind the use of pitch side cameras by the arsenal when it came to Eduardo *coughs*

    But it was this last item that caught my attention. One happy hacky slapped came up with the following composition:
    “There’s no need to punish Costa because Natural Justice will be applied by officials over the rest of the season” yes. That’s right. The same officials who have been ignoring cards for this player for months. It all evens out in the end.

    “Natural Justice” What. The ****?

    Just. Absolutely. Mind blastingly. Incredible.
    You can imagine the scene several hundred years ago as King John say their with his irate Barons.

    Magna Meh. Isn’t the King’s Justice good enough for you? Natural (feudal Justice? The strong eat the weak never mind Robin Hood and his red and white merry men. Chuck this pile of crap into the dunny cart” (hence the name Magna Carta)

    Fast forward through time a little bit:
    “Common Law? A law for commoners (Actually it was for owners of property but we can Obote that for now)? Crazy talk! It appears as of Natural Justice isn’t good enough for you”

    etc. etc. etc.

    Yup listening to a 24/7 Football hack dwarf. It can be an education. I feel enlightened today

    And the Mike Dean petition is now close to 100,000. Blimey.

  • Menace

    FIFA & UEFA chiefs caught exchanging pennants & probably underwear….

    Jose questions FA rule book – he thinks it’s a Red book (Arsenal colours).

  • finsbury

    Very strange comments from the specialist in signing overpriced players from the Special Agent.

    Considering the whole world just saw his team scrape through against nine with thirteen men.

    Almost as if he’s been reading/writing a certain blog.

  • Pete


    Thinking this through. If these allegations are substantiated then Blatter would be effectively gone with immediate effect. Valcke also has already gone. A bit of a leadeship vaccum.

    Election I think is in February – Platini’s position now looks untenable. Who will now get it? A couple of strong Asian candidates apparently – which could mean a significant shift in football’s focus away from Europe/Latin America.

    As for UEFA, Platini would have to go. Who would take over there?

    All in all, this really will be revolutionary. While that gives us all hope, one should not assume that there won’t be unpleasant surprises as well.

    But maybe, just maybe, we will start to see video refereeing for top-level football.

  • finsbury

    I suppose when you know that everyone who can understand the old rules written C1850 could see the fix last Saturday,well, then you have to spout such gibberish.

    The show must go on!

  • Menace

    Let’s hope the Swiss Police also find the Busacca link & pick up the smelly bits that link Barcelona.

  • finsbury

    The next head of FUFA or the organisation that will replace it will be from Qatar! Or Jorden. *coughs*

  • norman14

    I wouldn’t say nobody has questionned it! Andrew Jennings has been asking questions for years, sadly, without any support, least of all from our own FA. In the finish, he took his evidence to the FBI – and there began the road to events of the past 9 months.