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Lost in Bureaucracy: football’s tragic pathway (part 1)

Lost in Bureaucracy

Adam Brogden

Most people still view football as a sport, I being one; however, I cannot deny that football is also an industry with background rules to adhere to, and possibly soon, more legislation to regulate the interested parties of this industry.

Within the last month we have come to understand that the first real challenge to UEFA’s FFPR (financial fair play regulations) will come from a football agent (Daniel Striani) claiming a possible restriction of trade.

It’s difficult to understand this viewpoint, as I have pointed out before there are thousands of FIFA registered agents as well as thousands of nationally registered football agents and lawyers within the game.

However most agents actually struggle to break into the industry on a full-time basis and work with a select few clients on a part-time basis if they are lucky enough. This is due to the closed nature of the industry and the small fact that 60% of all footballers are registered with a small select group of agents/agencies.

So I ask a valid question, how an agent can claim restriction of trade when one already exists due to a kind of monopoly?  This is an anti-competitive side to the footballing industry no matter how you look at it.

He (Daniel Striani) also claims that FFPR will “lock in” the current top sides, into an unbreakable elite of European football.  However what he is asking the ECJ (European court of Justice) to do is maintain the status quo for the agents within this monopoly, exactly what he is preaching against.

It makes you wonder if he has truly thought this through!  He also claims a risk to his ability to earn money from a players’ playing contracts and transfer fees due to the possibility that fewer transfers will occur because football clubs are being encouraged to only spend what they earn.

So he is actually highlighting the parasitical nature of some agents in the sense that he wishes they can be allowed to operate at a loss, whether loaning money from banks or from private investment from an owner.

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Further, UEFA wants to ban, outright, any and all forms of TPPO (third party player ownership).  Again this could be viewed as a restriction on a person’s ability to trade.

On average in Europe the agencies take £400 million out of the game every year and this figure is only for that which the agents have acted as intermediaries and not through the profiting of TPPO’s  (that figure is unknown) although we do know that in 2011 over £3b (three billion pounds) was spent world-wide on acquiring footballers to new contracts.

Only since the implementation of TMS (transfer matching system) in 2009 do we have a record of a player’s TPPO contract at the time of transfer, during a player’s playing contract the clubs that can (as is allowed by National association rules), still sell portions of his economic/transfer rights without divulging this information.

Although for FFPR purposes the amounts cannot be added to their accounts until the players registration has been permanently transferred, and we only find out how much the buying club has had to pay to outside investors once a deal is done and logged on TMS, and this, only when the transfer happens across international borders.

UEFA are serious about banning TPPO’s but also understand that an adjustment period will be needed, especially in Portugal, Spain and Italy where this form of ownership has been rife for many years.  It is a system that has kept some clubs competitive when they have been badly guided or managed by their owners.  But that has occurred quite often with various agents and agencies behind the owners promising honours and financial rewards that have (inevitably) failed to materialise for the clubs.

This form of ownership breeds instability within a team sport and makes a club dependent on this model. UEFA has demanded that FIFA investigate this matter and take the lead in banning TPPO’s but as yet FIFA have only commissioned studies. UEFA has promised to take the lead and ban TPPO’s across Europe if FIFA doesn’t act soon.

In FIFA’s defence they have to look at the global picture and take into consideration the impact such rules could have on individual associations that rely heavily on the TPPO model.

Indeed Brazilian football is in a complete mess with the majority of players owned by investment groups outside of the official footballing community, so in effect the clubs are powerless as they don’t own a players economic rights, they only hold the registration with the national association for the player.

And this is where the private scouting networks (financed by agents/investors) come into play, doing their jobs very effectively and identifying talent at an early stage, signing them up to employment contracts (which the clubs cannot afford) and helping with their development of the players and agents/investors benefit but to the registered clubs’ detriment.

The career paths of these targeted players are mapped out using tried and tested methods to get them over to Europe and into the bigger paying leagues. The unsettling circumstances within this movement of sports people can be traced mostly to old colonial trade routes, which should need no further explaining.  Indeed I find it very disturbing that our past is still so very evident within sport.

Michel Platini recently said “What I can’t understand is when players in Brazil and Argentina don’t belong to a club, but they belong to people instead.  It means that, instead of going into sport, the (transfer) money goes to people.

“That is not logical. It is not human that people should belong to other people who sell them off”.

As the man states, the whole objective of being an investor in TPPO’s is to take money from the industry that football has shamefully become.  Furthermore the president of UEFA promised that “We will make the law against that for the whole of UEFA, If FIFA does not take any measures then we will take them in Europe.”

Quite how this is panning out, we shall see in the next instalment.

28 May Anniversaries

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20 comments to Lost in Bureaucracy: football’s tragic pathway (part 1)

  • Marc

    It’s just struck me that if the legal complaint against FFP is up held does that mean drug dealers can make a complaint that class A, B & C drugs being illegal is also a restraint of trade.

  • Mike T

    I dont know if you have had a chance to read the full transcript of Martin Samuels interview with Platini if not its worth a read.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2330554/Michel-Platini-talks-Martin-Samuel-Qatar-World-Cup-Financial-Fair-Play-goal-line-technology.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

    TPO is just yet another reason why FFP is unbalanced and yet another reason why FFP was always going to be challenged.

    Irrespective I love this quote from Platini

    “That is not logical. It is not human that people should belong to other people who sell them off”

    Ok he is talking about TPO but surely his comment is relevant to the whole transfer system in football.

  • goonerbegood

    The whole system is flawed , for me FFP won’t work, it would be manipulated by the same people who put the law there in the first place, all i would say is, Arsenal Fc should forget about the FFP and spend some fcking money and get some quality players to take us to the next level.

    If we continue to hope for FFP we would be left behind once again. Wenger needs to spend some money this season, no excuses of FFP , TBO or RBC, what we the fans need is to see Arsenal FC challenging for trophies again not chatting about FFP etc

    peace out.

  • Stuart

    Goonerbegood,
    That’s a good idea, ‘forget about the FFP and spend some fcking money’.

    Yeah let’s decide to ignore this new rule currently being implemented and take the massive gamble that it wont get implemented anyway. Being penalised for something that you were fully aware of and chose to ignore is brilliant management. Where do these people crawl from?

  • Robl

    @ Stuart, because as a club we’re not that great at communicating the strategy to our everyday supporters, probably due to not wanting to deter sponsors or potential signings. Also the board have been happy to hide behind Mr Wenger’s reputation for frugality whilst playing the FFP waiting game.

    Personally I think we are doing the right thing, but it’s evident that we are not taking everyone with us, and as a club we need to be more vocal in keeping real supporters such as Goonerbegood on side.

  • Ian Hawthorne

    Totally agree with goonerbegood. Whilst we finished the season superbly we won’t win a thing if we let players like Villa sign for a lesser team like Spurs and go for unrealistic targets. No way will Rooney ever come to us and spend on quality like Higuain not Jovetic who no one had heard of till recently. I have watched him all season on ESPN and whilst he has scored the odd cracker he has been anonymous in most games.Don’t believe the hype. The new Robin Van Persie. Bollocks
    I will still be at every game next season no matter but for God’s sake BUY A WORLD CLASS STRIKER. Even Benteke is better than what we have at the moment

  • Andrei

    So according to Platini “…It is not human that people should belong to other people who sell them off”

    Interesting. I assume that Mr. Platini believes that it is perfectly human that people should belong to football club aka people/investors that own the club. It is human that Walcott, Cazorla or Wilshere are collectively owned by Kroenke, Usmanov and Co…

  • Adam

    @Mike T, I wrote this piece as a one off, but it seems that it will be published in 2 or 3 segments and you jump straight to part 2or3 so hats off for thinking ahead. If I had known it would be split up I would have put a lot more information into it with regards to how the ECA have come about and how influential they are to how much of a hindrance they are to the whole pyramid system.

    This is actually the article/s that I wanted your help with so will value your opinion and please highlight anything that I may have missed.

    Andrei, the agents/investors actually run companies set up for that purpose so there is no real difference and I agree with you. The problem is, the investors operate outside of the footballing community so cannot be regulated by FIFA or UEFA. So for them to be regulated football would have to adhere to all laws and not be exempt from anything, however the EC wants sports governing bodies to be autonomous, and understands the specificity of sports that separate it from normal goings on.

  • Andrei

    @Adam Since UEFA is pretty much ‘owned’ by the top European clubs and related interests this drive to ban or ‘regulate’ TPPO is just thinly veiled attempt by the above mentioned clubs to assert even more control over global player market.

  • Adam

    Andrei, possibly, but as will be highlighted in other articles, its the EC that are pushing this direction, and don’t think for one moment that the status quo cannot change, will it? Is the real question.

    My feelings on this, are that the big clubs are living on borrowed time and that includes Arsenal, as changes are coming albeit very slowly. As Platini and others have stated “we are only at the beginning of this”.

    Plus just because football has operated in a certain way for so long doesn’t mean it will remain operating the same in the future.

    What the EC has set out for sports and football is totally different from how it operates now, and the ECA are actually part of the problem, so Ivan Gazidis has walked knowingly into this and with his background one can assume it is for a reason.

    But we will have to wait and see what unfolds. I just try and keep informed and put all the information in one place.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Adam,
    I think Tony has split up the article in a few articles because of the length of your article.

    This is down to the fact that when articles get too long most people stop reading. And then the rest of the information gets lost. And that would be a shame because you wrote a very interesting article about these things and an article that deserves all the attention it can get.

    But I know it is a bit frustrating at times because sometimes people ask: why didn’t you write or think about that after the first article and you have covered it but it is not yet visible for them.

    Usually Tony links to part 1 in the follow up articles so I hope people will bother to try to read it as one at the end of the last article.

    I face the same problem a bit when I do my end of the season referee review…

  • Mike T

    @Adam

    Apologies. I did wonder why things were sort of left hanging there in your article.
    As you know I have grave doubts about the whole FFP thing and in particular the whole G14 thing so look forward to your take on their influence.
    What I am sort of turning my thoughts more to is impact of the vast TV monies that will hit a club near us all next season.I know Cheslea will quite happily carry on spending aided by huge growth in TV monies but I really do wonder what clubs like Arsenal, Man Utd, Liverpool & Aston Villa will do with their huge income growth.Quite simply are we about to see money drain out of football by way of dividends?

  • Stuart

    Robl,
    Granted, but it shouldn’t take a football club to communicate for us to realise that by dismissing the planned up coming rules, we are only going to hurt ourselves if it backfires – this is common sense surely?!?!?

  • Man Overboard

    Andrei, slightly simplistic (and Daily Mail-esque) argument there. Players are contracted to clubs, not owned. The top players also get paid very handsomely for their services. The clubs own the players registration. Players can retire and cease playing professional football whenever they like. It’s not the same as owning a person.

  • Gooner S

    Yes FFP is being implemented. Is it a good idea? Broadly I am for it. On the other hand I have no faith in the ability of Uefa to govern this policy adequately. But that doesn’t mean to say that you should ignore it and “just spend some money”. That would just be daft.

    Should Arsenal spend some money and improve the squad? Yes they should! Within their means. You can adhere to FFP and spend some money!

  • Robl

    @ Stuart,what’s common sense to you or me isn’t to everyone else. Sometimes it takes age and distance to appreciate the climate in which something operates, and it’s effects. This can be at odds to the cauldron of match days.

    Good article Adam, and thanks for the time spent researching and writing it.

  • Andrei

    @Man Overboard In TPPO players are also contracted not owned. Top TPPO players are also paid very handsomely. Players can retire and cease playing professional football whenever they like. So what is the difference? Is it just a matter of regulation as Adam pointed?

  • robl

    @ Andrei, is it not a major issue that a 3rd party can have a large degree of influence over multiple clubs at once? Although we can as highlighted get that from super agents too.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Interesting to see that in Spain there is much to do about possible match fixing in La Liga. Not really related to this subject at first sight. Or is it?
    As robl pointed out a 3rd party who owns several players in different clubs might have an influence on those players and could tell them that such a result would be beneficial for their career in the long run.
    Players should be loyal to their clubs only when they play and with TPO sniffing around this could be not always the case. The same goes for super agents.

    I think removing agents from football would be a good thing for football.

  • Stuart

    Robl,
    Let me explain my comment to which you are replying.

    By common sense, I was referring to the fact that if the governing body of an industry you are in are to introduce a new rule, you would be mad to ignore it and live in denial in saying ‘I’m going to go against it regardless because there is a small chance that it wont come in anyway.’

    That IS common sense, people with common sense don’t need someone to point out that by intentionally breaking the rules you are likely to end up in trouble, it’s those without common sense who do.