Volume: 15 Issue: 11
FIFPro, the global organisation representing professional football players, and FIFA jointly announced in a 6 November 2017 press release that the two organisations have concluded a six year cooperation agreement to strengthen relationships between the two organisations and improve the governance of professional football following an 18 month period of negotiation between FIFA and football’s key stakeholders. As a ‘consequence’ of this cooperation agreement, the press release states that FIFPro has dropped its complaint to the European Commission (‘EC’), which challenged the legality of the post-Bosman transfer market system and FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players.
As part of the cooperation agreement, FIFPro, with FIFA, the European Club Association and the World Leagues Forum have formed a ‘Football Stakeholders Committee,’ which includes confederations, member associations and professional football stakeholders. The Football Stakeholders Committee will propose new rules influencing the relationship between players and clubs, and will establish a task force to study and conduct a broader review of the transfer system. Joint initiatives include the continued rollout of club licensing, the establishment of national dispute resolution chambers, and the exploration of minimum contract requirements with all stakeholders at global level.
In the press release, FIFA and FIFPro state that “new rules will streamline dispute resolution between players and clubs, particularly for decisions in cases of overdue payables. The changes will also introduce a new provision to avoid the abusive conduct of parties, such as players being forced to train alone.” João Lobão, Lawyer at Sporting Clube de Portugal, comments that “this topic has to be clearly analysed. Unpaid salaries are a problem not just for players but also clubs. If a club signs a player with the promise of better financial conditions than a competitor, and does not follow through, this will have a direct impact on the pitch. Integrity in the negotiation and respect for the contracts signed and all the terms is important, not only for players but also for clubs.”
FIFPro’s competition law complaint to the EC in September 2015 challenging FIFA’s transfer market system stated that “the transfer system interferes with labour mobility and the conditions under which new employment opportunities are offered,” and that it wished to “protect players fundamental rights under contract and labour law, including the timely payment of salaries.” Dr Martin Stopper, Partner at Lentze Stopper Rechtsanwälte, believes that the issues of inequality and shortcomings in players’ rights and wages raised by FIFPro in its 2015 complaint are being addressed. “Since players in Europe are usually well paid and treated more or less equally, problems of inequality - treatment and wages - in other regions, e.g. Africa and South America - are more crucial. First steps towards more equality as to players’ rights and wages have already been taken into account by the agreement,” explains Stopper.
“This mutual understanding has helped set in motion the biggest changes to football transfer rules since 2001. While clubs in the richest leagues invariably treat players well, there are other leagues in which the employment rights of footballers are routinely ignored. These rule changes will help protect the 60,000 players FIFPro represents against unfair treatment,” commented FIFPro President Philippe Piat on the signing of the cooperation agreement.
James Severn, Partner at Thomas Cooper, shares his opinion that “FIFA and FIFPro have had a number of years to reach agreement on the transfer system but have only managed to agree to constitute a committee to consider what changes should be made. The President of FIFPro has said that FIFPro intends to start work with FIFA to reform and restructure the transfer system. The FIFA President has been more measured but has acknowledged that work with FIFPro must start now. Significant change will be difficult. Powerful stakeholders within the football family have an interest in the status quo, not least because the value of assets could depreciate with a wholesale change in the transfer system. That being said, it appears that FIFPro considers there is a realistic prospect of bringing about change in the transfer system given the significant step of dropping the complaint to the European Commission.”