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August 2021

Lost in Bureaucracy part 2

This is a continuation of the first Lost in Bureaucracy article

Part 2…

We could actually be witnessing the slow power struggle between football’s governing bodies if FIFA does not take the lead in this matter.

With UEFA having every right to alter the rules of entry into their competitions, could we see European clubs unable or unwilling to employ Brazilian and Argentinian footballers unless the buying clubs purchase the player from the investment groups.  But at what expense!

Indeed wouldn’t this only fuel the cycle by giving these investment groups more money to consolidate their positions in South America? We are effectively paying them to take more money out of the European game while FIFA are standing by holding the vault door open for them.

Mr Gianni Infantino (UEFA General-secretary) said that no one should be surprised by the UEFA Executive Committee’s stance. “This is not a decision which has come out of the blue”. “This has already been discussed since the month of May (2012), when it was presented for the first time in the Strategy Council.”

“We all know that third-party ownership of players bears many threats, and there are many issues linked in terms of the integrity of competitions, financial fair play regulations and so on. It is really time to regulate it and to have a firm stance – however, in a reasonable way, with a transitional period to enable clubs to cope. UEFA is looking to have the necessary regulatory framework put in place to protect clubs and prevent the risk of clubs going out of business. The objective is to protect clubs for the longer term.

“It just means that the clubs need to take this issue in their hands and not give it away out of their hands,” the UEFA General Secretary emphasised. “And the players need to have their future in their hands, rather than in the hands of somebody whose business model is to bring about as many transfers of a player as possible, to make as much money as possible – money which then goes out of football and football clubs.”

The EC (European commission) specifically wanted UEFA & FIFA to help with the growth and identity of a United Europe by getting on board with the “Europe 2020” ten year strategy, which entails promoting Europe around the World and encouraging Europeans to live a healthier lifestyle .

FIFA in their wisdom have taken their flagship tournament out of the EU for the foreseeable future at a time when we could have done with it, and please remember that Spain are the only European side who have won the Jules Remit trophy outside of the European continent. UEFA are talking about a European wide Euro tournament with games being played in all the Capitals. I know UEFA has its faults but I feel they are trying to do what’s right.

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Now, back to the FFPR challenge and a brief look at the “white paper” and the specific nature of sport.

The specificity of European sport can be approached through two prisms:

a) The specificity of sporting activities and of sporting rules, incorporating separate competitions for men and women, limitations on the number of participants in competitions, or the need to ensure uncertainty concerning outcomes and to preserve a competitive balance between clubs taking part in the same competitions;

b) The specificity of the sport structure, including notably the autonomy and diversity of sport organisations, a pyramid structure of competitions from grassroots to elite level and organised solidarity mechanisms between the different levels and operators, the organisation of sport on a national basis, and the principle of a single federation per sport.

The case law of the European courts and decisions of the European Commission show that the specificity of sport has been recognised and taken into account. They also provide guidance on how EU law applies to sport. In line with established case law, the specificity of sport will continue to be recognised, but it cannot be construed so as to justify a general exemption from the application of EU law. (Taken from the white paper).

This then brings us to the “purely sporting interests” for the rules governing sports, in particular football. Noted above we have the competitive integrity of sports and rules which inhibit anti-competitive behaviour, trafficking of players, illegal betting, corruption and fraud and abusive terms of employment which is exactly what UEFA are trying to achieve with banning TPPO’s and to some extent the implementation of FFPR.

But nowhere in the above are agents or investors directly mentioned, they are considered either far removed or a problem for the actual sport. Agents are recognised by FIFA in the “Status of players and transfer regulations” and the “agents regulations”, and already have limitations placed upon them with regards to contacting players who are signed with other agents within the last two years (that’s the upper limit for players signing to an agent known as a representation contract).  Once the two years are up, another agent can approach the player to solicit his services, which is more than clubs can do, as no player under contract with a club can be approached by another club without the registered clubs permission until near the end of the playing contract.

And please remember that the EC were instrumental in putting the “Status of players and transfer regulations” and the “agents’ regulations” together. What these agents and outside investors are doing is inhibiting UEFA and FIFA from regulating European and World football, which is exactly the opposite of what the EC wants.

The EC is all for sports governing bodies being autonomous as long as they abide by EU law and the exemptions due to the “specific nature” of the individual sports. The EC wants sporting institutions to uphold their “fair and balanced” competition principles, which I will outline below.

“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”.

Now this can be looked at in many ways, like who are the participants? Do they mean the players or clubs or both? If we look at UEFA’s and FIFA’s rules for players and clubs then all are treated the same, but if we look at this from a national perspective, then the differing rules around taxation and the allowing of TPPO’s amounts to an advantage for some players and clubs.

But then we can consider the TV deal in Spain that allows Real Madrid and Barcelona to monopolise their league with their financial clout and again this amounts to an advantage over the rest of their national league. The premier league can be considered financially doped due to their ability to jointly sell the product World-wide, but this could be argued as honest business but does highlight an imbalance across European football.  We do have private investors within English football and that amounts to an unfair advantage for the sides that have almost unlimited funding over those that live within their means.

The Lost in Bureaucracy series will conclude with the third part, to be published shortly


30 May Anniversaries

  • 30 May 1952: Alex Forbes makes 14th and last appearance for Scotland
  • 30 May 1995: Death of Ted Drake – the man who scored 42 goals in 41 games

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