FIFPro, the international footballer players union file complaint to the European Commission
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FIFPro, the international footballer players union file complaint to the European Commission

Football clubs received just 0.5 per cent in training compensation of the record $4.2 billion of player transfer fees last year. The share matches a record low and was dwarfed by club payments to agents.

The data, compiled by FIFA but not released publicly, was shown to Members of the European Parliament at an event in Brussels this week by FIFPro officials to demonstrate how the player transfer system is not effectively distributing revenue.

“The transfer system is rewarding agents far more than football clubs that produce talent,” FIFPro Secretary General Theo van Seggelen said. “How can this be right? It’s critical the system is overhauled.”

FIFPro, the international players union which represents 65,000 footballers, in September 2015 filed a complaint to the European Commission about the player transfer system accusing it of being unlawful and unjustified.

The commission is studying the complaint and has asked FIFA for its response to the complaint.

In 2001, FIFA introduced training compensation for clubs that developed players between 12 and 21 to try and encourage spending on youth academies.

But the global sum last year was no more than 20.7 million euros in 2015, according to the latest annual report by FIFA’s Transfer Matching System that track spending. The percentage of training compensation matches the previous record low of 2012. FIFA TMS began its research in 2011.

Most transfer fees were exchanged by the biggest clubs in Europe’s top five leagues, according to the FIFA TMS report. The amount of compensation that clubs paid agents in 2015 rose by 15 percent to a record 228 million euros.

“Transfer fees are circulating among football’s elite, keeping a handful of clubs and a few agents rich, and not enough money is reaching smaller clubs,” Van Seggelen said. “Ever since the creation of the current transfer system in 2001 there has been a clear lack of motivation to modernize football.”

In another sign that football’s revenue distribution is failing smaller clubs, only 1.3 per cent of international fees was shared out in so-called solidarity payments to the former clubs of players traded for a transfer fee. The compensation is meant to make up 5 per cent of the fee for players aged 12 to 23 but some clubs are not aware they are due money or do not have the resources to chase the compensation.

FIFPro members see repeated evidence that under the transfer system players do not have the same rights as other EU workers. Dario Simic, the president of the Croatian players union, told MEPs at the dinner event at the Bibliothèque Solvay in Brussels that club directors have control over footballers and they consistently abuse their dominant position.

“It is not true that players are predetermined to drive Mercedes cars and live in luxurious houses,” Simic, a former player for Dinamo Zagreb, AC Milan and Internazionale. “Only 1% of players gets a chance to play on a level that secures a decent wage.”

“It happens too often that contracts between clubs and players turn out to be empty words on paper. It is true that FIFA rules say that players can leave after 3 months if they do not get paid but it is not easy to leave.”

Clubs can demand a transfer fee for a player once he is under contract and team directors in Croatia and other Eastern European countries make players train alone and even attack them to force them to sign new deals, Simic said.

“My question to you is: Would you like your child to play in such a club? Is this an environment that deserves lesser oversight by you, the European institutions.”

By Martin Banks