The legal investigation begins into the way transfers are manipulated




Criminal proceedings against Infantino

According to the Swiss newspaper Le Matin the public prosecutor of Fribourg has opened criminal proceedings against Gianni Infantino, the head of Fifa and two other Fifa executives for slander.  

The case revolves around the issue of dual or triple representation of footballers involved in transfers, in which a player’s agent represents the player, the club he plays for, and the club he is moving to.

The prosecution’s argument is that this system is illegal and that each party in a dispute should have a separate agent.

In looking into this recently, the Swiss newspaper,  La Liberté cited the case of the transfer of Paul Pogba from Juventus to Manchester United. At the time, Mino Raiola was the player’s representative.  But (according to the newspaper) he also represented both clubs, and as a result received 49 million euros in fees.   One might take this as being rather a nice payout when all one was doing was talking to oneself.

The legal argument however is that this practice of having one agent representing all three sides in a transfer is both fundamentally anti-competitive and contrary to Swiss law (relevant because Fifa is based in Switzerland and subject to Swiss law) and Fifa’s own code of ethics – although seemingly note against English law – see the “triple representation” link above.

In response to the case Fifa, and lawyers for the player and the two clubs, all say that while they do not comment upon the individual merits of a case, they believe no laws have been broken.

However, there is a growing awareness in the European media that Gianni Infantino is himself still the subject of legal proceedings in Zurich, for a series of secret meetings with Michael Lauber, the former head of the Swiss Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Now as ever, none of this is reported in the UK media because the official line in the UK is that Fifa is a jolly good thing that has stood up against the nasty Super League.  Also unreported is the fact that Philippe Renz, a Friborg lawyer and manager of the sports management company Sport7, has just won a battle in the war between himself and Fifa and against the increasingly notorious Gianni Infantino.

As a result, according to “La Liberté” the Friborg public prosecutor considered a criminal case against Infantino and two other Fifa executives.   He also accused Fifa of supporting a form of “organized crime” rife in the transfers of footballers – that is dual or triple representation.

That case was dismissed by the Friborg prosecutor’s office but the aforementioned lawyer Philippe Renz appealed to the Cantonal Court, which agreed with him and ordered the reopening of the file.

Also under investigation is the system of triple representation within a transfer in which a club that is in financial difficulty (as many in Italy are for example) could agree to transfer player X from itself to a financially wealthy club for an amount that is far more than neutral observers would suggest the player is worth.

The wealthy club then takes the player and pays the “commission” to the agent (representing the player and the clubs) but the transfer fee is not paid in full.  However, it shows on the books of the selling club in financial difficulty, as a debt owed.   This makes the balance sheet look much better and can help bring the selling club back within the financial rules of its league.  

Part of the transfer fee might be paid the following year, but hidden away within the deal is an arrangement for the buying club to be able to buy other players from the selling club at discounts in the future. And it seems sometimes the whole fee on the books is never paid but written off as a bad debt (although here I have evidence I can present).

But the point here is that the investigators who consider if clubs are abiding by FFP and other rules about club finances, rarely look at whether debts are being paid or not, simply what the balance sheet says.  It says Club X owes Club Y £50m for a player, and so that makes club Y’s finances look £50m better, and brings it to within FFP regulations.  Case closed.

But the money is never paid and quite possibly the debt, when it becomes four years old is “written off.”  FFP regulations are however satisfied. 

Now to be quite clear I can only report the stories that are circulating in the European media.  These tend to be much more investigative of football than the English media which always bends the knee to the FA and the League, for fear of otherwise losing its privileged position close to the clubs and its seats at England matches.

One Reply to “The legal investigation begins into the way transfers are manipulated”

  1. Infantino – “we will be forced not to broadcast the Fifa Women’s World Cup into the ‘big five’ European countries.”

    I think Infantino misunderstands the meaning of the word “forced”

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