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July 2021

A fair and balanced competition. The EU is about to act.

Written by Adam Brogden.

“A fair and balanced competition is a competition in which everyone that participates has an equal chance of winning and is treated in the same way without discrimination”.

This is taken from the latest study to be released by the EU into the governance of sport, and actually raises more issues than it answers.

For instance, consider seeding for the champion’s league or the different national rules governing third party player ownership.  Or consider local tax legislation on sports persons and the differing financial positions of the various clubs competing against one another.  Or indeed the differing standards in officiating from one club to another and from one official to another are just some occurrences that prove we don’t have a fair playing field across football.

With the European Union actively involved in trying to determine sports’ specific nature we can be sure of changes happening within football for many years to come, but what direction are we being steered?

If we consider that every side should be able to compete for the title in their respective league then we can definitely state that football is not competitive nor has it ever been. Only a select few clubs can win their league and the only surprises we face nowadays are the clubs that slightly over achieve.

The rise and fall of clubs through the pyramid system has been the accepted method across Europe for decades.  However in today’s footballing world we see wealthy owners willing to by-pass the hard work method and throw money at a club which can then purchase its way up the pyramid effectively nullifying the pyramid system and creating an elite league.

In 1994-95,e 5,735 transfers took place involving €402,869,000. Yet during 2010-11 we see 18,307 transfers worth a staggering €3,002,198,000 across Europe.   And do remember that transfers involving a fee are the minority as most transfers worldwide involve no fee at all.

To break this down further we can view countries as importers, exporters or both, of footballers and some others as intermediaries used primarily as a stepping stone to the big five leagues.

Exporting countries such as Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary mainly export their footballing talent with a few footballers who use these destinations as a stepping stone to bigger leagues and wages, usually via a private scouting network and agent. The positives for these countries are that money is entering the country as a transfer fee and wages if the player/s returns home.

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Importing countries such as England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France (which make up the big five) offer the highest wages so are the end goal for professional footballers wanting their big move and pay day.

The only problem with this model is the money is normally one way, leaving the country in the form of a transfer fee and at a later date when the foreign player leaves the country to return home with his wages usually after avoiding paying his share of tax. To keep this model going we need the constant injection of TV monies.  If this stops so do the transfers.

We then have the intermediaries such as Portugal and again France.   Portugal acts as an intermediary between Brazil (where TTPO’s are the norm) and the big five whereas France is responsible for the African drain.

Holland and Belgium are also found somewhere in the middle as both Importers and exporters of footballers acting as a stepping stone in to the big five.

So how do we address the imbalance in European football?

At the moment we don’t for the gulf is ever growing.  Could Manchester city have broken in to the elite clubs list without the added income from their investors? The obvious answer is no. Same for Chelsea and PSG (although given time they might have done), so the EU are aware of this elite imbalance and wish to address the issue (as we have been warned).

Indeed they specifically mentioned PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City and the destabilising effect they have had on the industry as a whole, raising the question: how to stop newcomers from attempting this approach in favour for a longer business plan with local training at its heart.

So this latest report can be seen as the first shot across the bows of the elite super clubs of which Arsenal is part of. What the EU have in mind, I’m not sure but one of the things brought up was training payments for under 23 players moving from club to club.

At the moment the elite clubs get more for their youngsters than the smaller clubs, and I believe the EU wish to change this but we have to wait and see. Personally I believe an elite club should be made to pay a premium rate for taking a youngster from a lower league club or should automatically have sell on percentages attached to the movement of the player regardless of contractual obligations until the age of 23. This will ensure more money is moving down the pyramid and will in effect reward those lower league clubs that wish to produce their own local footballers. Will this infringe on their rights to free movement, no as we have these payments in place already but they are back to front.

The footballing industry has already been given the green light by the EU to restrict a sports person’s movements between employers by only allowing transfer during windows and protected periods of contracts (the first three years of a contract signed by an under 28 or first 2 years signed by an over 28).

The biggest change the EU could insist upon is the banning of third party player ownership as this opens clubs up to possible corruption as a person with an interest in a player or multiple players could effectively tamper or influence the outcome of a game or competition.

To prove to you that the EU will do what they need to I will use the “English National Investment Company” (ENIC) as an example. This company held shares in 6 European clubs all competing in UEFA’s competitions, they (ENIC) appealed to the EU to overturn UEFA’s stance on multiple club ownerships.

The EU found in favour of UEFA and upheld their rules on club owners having an interest in other clubs specifically relating to the competitiveness and integrity of its competitions. So ENIC group have to stick to owning just one club, Tottenham Hotspur.

So we now know that the EU want to undo what they effectively started with the Bosman and Webster cases (the Webster case is discussed below), but are also aware that we cannot return to old ways either. With the introduction of “the specific nature of sport” introduced in to EU legislation it gives the EU leeway to counteract their past decisions and push the industry forwards.

With the aid of bad decision making within the EU we have witnessed the rise of agents whose only goal in the industry is the extraction of personal wealth; a good honest agent is hard to come by. Which brings me back to third party player ownerships. Poland recently joined England and France in banning TTPO’s so we are slowly seeing changes but for me the outright banning of TTPO’s EU wide cannot come soon enough, and as I have shown above the EU will uphold Uefa’s rules if Uefa can convince them that the integrity of football is at risk. Which we all know it is when a person outside a club owns part or all of said player’s future transfer rights.  Personally I cannot see this not happening.

Another thing the EU should insist upon is a limit on agents earnings from a sports person’s contract say 2% over the contract and 5% of the transfer fee.  At the moment what some agents are taking out of the game could educate a whole generation of kids!

One thing the EU will not address is the free movement of EU citizens within the EU.  At present 55% of all footballers in England are foreign nationals, which you compare with the national work force average of 4.4% of foreign nationals.  So beyond doubt football in England is a multinational industry and it’s no wonder that clubs have lost their local identity and in some cases are failing in their responsibilities to the local communities.

After all, football is still a sport of location and should always remain so even in today’s global market but how do you retain local ties when no local lads are making the grade? We in England pride ourselves on fair play and honour yet you don’t have to look too deep to realise that that “local” attitude is of a past era (and in many cases is mythical) and we are surrounded with negativity, greed, swindlers and cheats yet for some reason we want our football pure and true, (which is not a true reflection of Society).

I think football today with its cheats and overpriced superstars is a real reflection of what Britain has become and that needs to change, and if it takes the EU to push us in that direction then so be it.

Before people berate me for being pro-Europe please remember this; if a player in France or Germany has a dispute with their employers, they can take them to a local/civil court whereas in the UK footballers do not have the same rights as we, as they have to go through a sports arbitrations court.

This is not too much of a problem if you’re a top flight footballer but what of those who ply their trade in the lower leagues on the same amount of money as you and I? We can sue an employer, they cannot, so are we equal? People need to remember what is given is also taken away. I can change employment when I like, footballers cannot (the protected period works both ways and was initiated to protect the clubs). Add to that a clubs willingness to sell a player’s future transfer rights (outside of England, France and Poland) then a person has lost control over ones future. So it’s little wonder that the wages have gone through the roof.

Which brings up back to the Webster case.  Now players can terminate their contracts outside of the protected period but in doing so could face sanctions, compensation and even be forced to fund a replacement for the club which they’re leaving.  Indeed CAS (court of arbitration for sport) has imposed all of these before on players who have terminated their contracts without “just cause”.

Also remember the £14.3 million compensation package imposed on Adrian Mutu.  It was upheld and he has to pay Chelsea the full amount even though it was slightly different circumstances.  So a player who is transferred is liable for the transfer fee if he walks away from his contract. Is it any wonder that wages have gone through the roof? Could you envisage yourself handing in your notice and being told you have to fund your replacement and the extra wages and pay a fine?

I know some players get paid a fortune but most don’t but they still lose a lot of their rights. So I’m not going to shed too many tears (none in fact) but some things we take for granted are not available to sportspersons (not just footballers) and vice versa. This is why people need to support the changes that are coming, read up on what the EU is up to because every change that’s happened over the last 15 years has been instigated or influenced by the European Union. Keep informed and who knows you might have the answers.


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24 comments to A fair and balanced competition. The EU is about to act.

  • Sid

    Really interesting article, thanks a lot. And I do agree too.

  • Yaskatz

    Surely should be ‘TPPO’ for ‘third party player ownerships’ instead of ‘TTPO’? (Unless you mean ‘third TARTY player ownerships, which also might make sense…).

  • A good article moving between the personal rights of players and agents, as well as the corporate governance of the clubs by UEFA and the state.

    Of course, the ‘adjustment’ of players’ rights began back in the 1960’s determining the rights of a player to move between clubs, with the credit going to George Eastham.

    The Bosman and other cases then moved things on viz a vis the contractual rights and freedom of movement rights of players.

    The Post makes a fascinating read, but is obviously full of conjecture about ‘mayhaps and maybes’, but is correct in showing the determination of the EU involvement in so much as it is protecting the normal employee labour and human rights, as well as backing UEFA with their FFP project to enable a more level financial playing field.

  • M Thomas

    It is indeed an interesting article and in relation to third party ownership shows yet again how UEFA don’t treat all clubs the same for FFP the stack being decked against the EPL. Falco for instance is at Athletico they, the club, only own about 50% of the player meaning that they only had to find half of the transfer fee. Would they have been able to afford a player of his quality at full cost?
    I know that some will say that when they sell him they will only get 50% of the fee but imagine the impaction if say Hazard had only cost Chelsea £16 million and say RA or whoever owned the other half. It would make a massive difference in terms of Chelsea’s balance sheet and they still would have had the player.
    As for the Webster case I was of the opinion UEFA were furious about the ruling and far from giving them some sort of green light have looked on the case with grave concern as to its implications
    Webster himself didn’t give notice at the correct time and received no more than a slap on the wrist for that & also I am pretty sure that the compensation, in his or indeed other rulings of this nature, have never included the cost of a replacement the compensation is was based purely as a % of wage and contract term and more important it is the player that pays to buy off the contract and not a club. In the Mutu case, which in truth is nowhere near the same type of case, the compensation payable did factor in his replacement who was, believe it or not Shaun Wright Phillips.
    None the less well done on a thought provoking article.

  • rusty

    Thanks for this — a very thorough look at an important component of the off-the-pitch side of the game. Adam, could you clarify the “protected” years of a player’s contract? I’m somewhat familiar with player development payments (thanks, for example, to Ibrahimovic, whose youth clubs in Sweden have received a number of cash infusions) and obviously with the restrictions on transfer windows, but I don’t know anything about this other restriction you mention.

  • Arsenal1Again

    Come on, teams like Man City are already trying to fairer. Take Mancini for example, he spent squillions on building a team which was losing 3–1 to a team 14 places below in the league. To be fairer, he took off one of the main strikers at 74 mins and bought on a right back. How can you be fairer than that!!!!!! 🙂

  • Adam

    The protected period of a contract is;

    3 years from the date signed for under 28s
    2 years from the date signed for over 28s

    A buy-out clause can be incorporated and activated within the protected period.
    Initially the protected period was introduced to protect clubs and instill a form of contractual stability in to the game after the Bosman ruling.

    @Redarse Im just about to send in another article about George Edward Eastman. Please don’t give too much away.

  • bjtgooner

    Excellent article Adam, I fully agree with your comments about agents.

  • Adam

    M Thomas, research cases involving the following.

    Mexes, Matuzalem.

    “Fees and expenses paid or incurred by the former club. Compensation for the club can take into account the investment made in securing the services of the player and the fact that it had not been amortized at the time of the termination of the contract. The amortization period, which is taken into account by the DRC and the CAS, is not the length of the protected period, but the duration of the contract, which, in principle, cannot exceed 5 years”.

  • Adam

    M Thomas, there was a case in Italy where a goalkeeper terminated his contract and was made to pay for his replacement. When i find it I will provide a link.

  • Adam

    M Thomas, it was “De Sanctis” of Udinese. He had to pay for his replacement.

  • M Thomas


    I was aware of this case but my understanding of this case was that CAS could not rule using the Article 17 (The Webster Ruling is a EU directive) as the player had been under contract to an non EU club namely Shaktar who are based in the Ukraine. This meant that they, CAS, had they had to rule using FIFAs protected period but could not use the other rulings as a true precedent as they had been between two EU based clubs

  • M Thomas


    De Sanctis saga was ,I think was settled by FIFA and yes they did I think use the Matuzalem case as a precedent when arriving at their decision but wasnt that descision appealed to CAS who in effect reduced the settlement to just a mutiple of his wages?

  • Adam

    You have to understand that this industry is so unregulated that every case is setting a precedent for the industry. Its a baby compared with other established industries. Matuzalem only paid a % of his salary, De sanctis was made to pay for his replacement. Im using the EU release for January 2013 for my information if you have something more up to date can you give me the link. Cheers in advance.

    Other cases which may interest you;

    Gerard pique (his move to Arsenal agreed with Barca only for Manchester United to sign him).
    Magnus Troest, Sarr, Binfim, Sissoko, Trejo. All setting standards and highlighting the need for cross border co-operation in regulating this industry.
    A fair competition for all participants irrelevant of country of employment.

    If you want a precedent look at Mutu’s case.

  • M Thomas


    Nothing other than memory as to what i read on blogs/ press reports.

    Will look at the other cases.

    I have sort of followed the Mutu case my take on it is that Chelsea arguments were about buying in SWP but for me the real difference is that Chelsea sacked Mutu for gross mis conduct whereas in the Webster type case the player walks away from the clubs.

    The funny thing in all this is Blatter and his slavery quote

    Please publish more of these type of articles .

  • Gord


    I think this was a wonderful article. You are bringing up information that most people don’t even consider, which should be part of any intelligent decision.

  • WalterBroeckx

    That really was very interesting Adam. The dark side of the transfer window that is kept away from the big lights but plays a big part in transfer deals.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    This is really very impressive ,Adam . Thanks .

  • Shard

    An interesting read Adam. Keep ’em coming 🙂

  • Slysoulman

    Interesting post, Adam.
    I am African and my primary interest in European footbal is The Arsenal, but I am baffled by the Mutu case. The player was found to be taking narcotics and consequently fired by his employers, if my facts are correct. Which is perfectly in order, though it has been argued that they could rather have help him with his demons. What confounds me is the ruling that he should recompense Chelsea FC, which sacked him in the first place! Of course I am not privy to the details of his contract pertaining to personal conduct which may have informed the ruling. I do not mind being educated further on this and the Webster case.
    Keep up the good work, UA.

  • Adam


    Article 22:
    “Unless specifically provided for in the contract, and without prejudice to
    the provisions on training compensation laid down in Art. 13 ff,
    compensation for breach of contract (whether by the player or the club),
    shall be calculated with due respect to the national law applicable, the
    specificity of sport, and all objective criteria which may be relevant to the
    case, such as:
    (1) Remuneration and other benefits under the existing contract and/or
    the new contract,
    (2) Length of time remaining on the existing contract (up to a maximum of
    5 years),
    (3) Amount of any fee or expense paid or incurred by the former club,
    amortised over the length of the contract,
    (4) Whether the breach occurs during the periods defined in Art. 21.1”.

    Happy reading (don’t fall asleep).

  • Adam

    The Court of Arbitration for Sport rules that:
    1. The appeal filed by the Mr Adrian Mutu against the decision issued on 7 May
    2008 by the Dispute Resolution Chamber of the FIFA Players’ Status Committee
    is dismissed.
    2. Mr Adrian Mutu is ordered to pay to Chelsea Football Club Limited the amount of
    EUR 17,173,990, plus interest of 5% p.a. starting on 12 September 2008 until the
    effective date of payment.
    3. The costs of the arbitration, to be determined and served to the parties by the CAS
    Court Office, shall be borne by Mr Adrian Mutu.
    4. Mr Adrian Mutu is ordered to pay CHF 50,000 (fifty thousand Swiss Francs) to
    Chelsea Football Club Limited as a contribution towards the legal and other costs
    incurred in connection with these arbitration proceedings.
    5. All other prayers for relief are dismissed.

  • Slysoulman

    Thanks for the link, Adam. Didn’t quite fall asleep; I choose to read it in instalments. Making steady progress I’m glad to report 🙂

    As for Mutu, is he out of hock yet?

  • M Thomas

    Mutu, as far as has been publshed, has still not paid anything and aged 34 is fast approaching the end of his playing career.
    As the award was made against him there really arent any football sanctions available for Chelsea to pursue.FIFA could ban him but in other cases where players owe ex clubs money the courts (I think in Switzerland) have ruled that would be in breech of his human rights denying him the abilty to earn a living.
    So in effect unless a ruling is made making a player and a club jointly and severly liable there is little that is likely to happen unless the club pursue the player through the civil courts