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Updated Monday June 19, 2000
EC warns FIFA over transfers

BRUSSELS, June 19 (Reuters) - The European Commission has told FIFA to change current transfer rules or have them banned under European competition law.

With transfer fees or out-of-contract players banned under the 1995 Bosman ruling, the Commission is now moving to end fees for in-contract players in the same way, replacing them with an as yet undefined 'compensation'.

'What we are basically doing is warning FIFA that unless it comes up with new proposals on transfer rules, the Commission will have to take a negative decision on the existing rules,' spokeswoman Amelia Torres told the EU executive's daily news conference.

'It would mean that the FIFA system would no longer be legal. Nobody would be bound by those rules. It would be a matter for the player and the club to solve.'

FIFA was not immediately available for comment. The Commission opened its probe into FIFA transfer rules in 1998 after receiving complaints from three clubs, players' organisations in Belgium and a lobby group campaigning for 'sport and liberty'.

FIFA had been expected to submit new proposals a few weeks ago, but has failed to do so. Torres said it would have to comply quickly or the current system could be banned by the end of the year.

EU competition chief Mario Monti believes the FIFA requirement for a club buying an in-contract player to pay an arbitrary transfer fee breaks EU competition law.

'We also object to the rule under which players cannot unilaterally negotiate an end to their contracts,' Torres said. Current FIFA rules forbid players to break contracts and leave negotiation of transfer fees in the hands of clubs.

Torres said the Commission accepted clubs should receive some 'compensation' if a player left early but that the level should be agreed by both parties and not supplemented by a fee from the player's new club.

'This compensation should be in line, for example, with how much the club has invested in training the player. In Spain, the cost of breaking a contract is written into it,' Torres said.

The Commission has been wrestling with FIFA and UEFA ever since the Bosman ruling in the European Court of Justice, which banned transfer fees for out-of-contract players and ended restrictions on the number of overseas players allowed in EU teams.

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