• Football

FIFPro plan challenge to 'shackling' transfer system

ESPN staff
December 17, 2013
Gareth Bale became the world's most expensive player this summer, but a hefty cut of his fee went to agents © Getty Images

International football players' union FIFPro plans to mount a legal challenge against the transfer system, claiming players are still "shackled" to their clubs.

The current transfer system has been in place since the Bosman ruling was introduced in 2001, but FIFPro claims that players are still prevented from moving from club to club with the type of freedom allowed to workers moving between one firm and another.

If successful a challenge would trigger a revolution in the way players are still bought and sold and a potential explosion in the number of free transfers in the future.

Any such challenge is likely to be fiercely opposed by the clubs, but FIFPro are prepared to take its case to the European Commission, the European Court of Justice and human rights' courts.

It also claims sanctions for breaches of contract are "exorbitant" compared with any other industry.

"The transfer system fails 99% of players around the world, it fails football as an industry and it fails the world's most beloved game," said FIFPro president Philippe Piat.

"Football's governing bodies, clubs and leagues claim the transfer system is necessary to ensure competitive balance, whereby in fact it creates a spiral of economic and sporting imbalance, which only benefits the richest 1% of clubs and player agents.

"These legal and monetary shackles binding footballers to their current clubs can no longer be accepted and upheld."

FIFPro claims that 28% of all transfer fees ends up in the pockets of agents and that many players are not paid on time, or even at all.

Bobby Barnes, the PFA deputy chief executive and European president of FIFPro, said the current system encouraged third-party ownership of players which is banned in the UK.

Such arrangements are common in South America, Spain and Portugal, where players are 'owned' by a businessman or company who benefits from any transfer fees and image rights.

Barnes said: "In the absence of competitive balance the system encourages speculative, unsustainable, immoral and illegal investment models like third-party ownership of players."

FIFPro said it would continue to talk to FIFA, UEFA, the European Clubs' Association (ECA) and the leagues but warned they expect changes.

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