FIFPro has announced that it is launching a legal challenge against the transfer system, claiming the current FIFA regulations “impede the players’ freedom to move.”
The world players’ union has approved a strategic plan to address the freedom of movement of workers within the European Union (EU) as well as competition law and human rights following expert advice. It will take its complaints to the European Commission (EC), the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and human rights courts.
It warned: “The legal and monetary shackles binding footballers (the employees) to their current clubs (the employers) can no longer be accepted and upheld.”
In 1995, players were granted the freedom to move clubs upon the expiry of their contracts after Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman took his case to the ECJ, and FIFPro believes it can strike a further blow for workers’ rights within the game.
The union argues that clubs who lose young players are claiming compensation “at much higher levels than cost incurred.” The ECJ had ruled in 2010, in the case of Olivier Bernard vs. Olympique Lyonnais, that clubs are permitted to seek compensation for training young players if they sign for another team in a EU country.
FIFPro adds that players are being unduly punished when looking to escape from contracts.
It said: “Exorbitant compensation for breaches of contract is imposed on players, unimaginable in any other industry. More so, the threat of sporting sanctions for breaches of contract during the protected period is constantly maintained through the renewal of contracts. This was never envisaged in 2001, when FIFA, UEFA and the European Commission reached an informal agreement on the principles of the transfer system.”
FIFPro president Philippe Piat had said reviewing the transfer system was one of his key targets upon being elected in October and he strongly believes players are not granted the same rights as other EU workers.
“FIFPro will not stand by and watch from the sidelines as football players’ rights around the world are systemically disrespected and the football industry dismantles itself,” he said. “The transfer system has always and continues by definition to be built on the back of our members’ rights as workers and human beings.
“The transfer system fails 99 percent of players around the world, it fails football as an industry and it fails the world’s most beloved game. 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 one percent of clubs and player agents.
“Football players are workers and only when they are able to enjoy the rights enshrined in law and enjoyed by all other workers will FIFPro be satisfied.”
General secretary Theo van Seggelen added: “FIFPro sits at the same table as FIFA, whose regulations govern the current transfer system, UEFA, the European Clubs Association (ECA), the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL), and we will remain at that table.
"We are firmly committed to dialogue, provided that all stakeholders possess an honest will to critically question the status quo and a will to implement fundamental changes, now. But FIFPro will not be limited in its means to bring about change.”
The union -- which helped French-Algerian player Zahir Belounis during his recent troubles in Qatar -- believes a high number of footballers are not paid on time and that this has contributed to a rise in criminality in the game, amid a number of match-fixing allegations across Europe.
FIFPro Division Europe president Bobby Barnes said: “Despite football enjoying record amounts of revenue, football’s regulatory and economic system fails miserably on numerous fronts and drives the professional game towards self-destruction. Destruction through a systemic disrespect for those on the pitch. Destruction through a failure to achieve competitive balance and financial stability. Destruction through an absence of responsible governance, which invites criminals to abuse our game.
“Thousands of players worldwide are not paid on time, or not at all, while 28 percent of the global transfer market (an estimated $750 million annually) is paid to agents and lost to the game. Something is not right with this picture.
“Unpaid players are vulnerable targets of crime syndicates, who instigate match-fixing and threaten the very existence of credible football competitions. The current industrial model of football in general fails to ensure a professional management and compliance culture that is capable of safeguarding our game against internal and external abuse. In contrast, in the absence of competitive balance it encourages speculative, unsustainable, immoral and illegal investment models like Third Party Ownership of players.”