From 1 January 2009 Fifa – the organisation described by a judge in a legal case over sponsorship as having “lied and lied and lied again” in its evidence – is to try and stop the transfer of teenage players across national boundaries.
In future a committee, selected by the discredited organisation, will examine the transfer and give its official verdict.
At present all clubs are able to make such transfers providing they take into account the situation on the families, and provide work etc locally for those who move with the young player to provide family continuity.
While there is of course every reason for football to try and get rid of the child trafficking agencies which exist in Africa and Asia, and which make insane promises to young players and their families, before whisking the boys off to Europe, the approach that they are now adopting will dramatically affect clubs such as Arsenal that always treat their young players well.
Arsenal of course have been involved in bringing many players to London who have the ability to flourish and develop in a way that they were not able to achieve elsewhere. Transfers across the European Union will be seriously compromised but could easily be challenged by any 16 year old or any club, as an infringement of freedom of work and movement which is guaranteed to all citizens of the EU. (FIFA regularly try and pass regulations which are contrary to EU law, and then back down again. The obvious example is the attempt to have a certain number of players from a specific country in each team).
But being FIFA they clearly won’t stop there – for their motto is “why stop at one initiative when you can make up another on the spot.” They also plan a rule to be introduced later in the year in which all 16-year-olds will have to sign five year contracts. 17 year olds will have to sign four year contracts, and so on.
Given the way agents and journalists have colluded in recent years to whip up stories about players leaving the club, in order to make a transfer impossible to resist, this can only further harm football.
One further amusing point. Because the FIFA notion of a national boundary is linked to its footballing boundary, the transfer of Ramsey from Cardiff to Arsenal would have come under this new rule – since Wales to England is a transfer across a national boundary in FIFA terms.
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