How it unfolded
Danish club FC Midtjylland had a cooperation with Nigerian club FC Ebedei. The cooperation meant that the Danish club had a purchase option on the Nigerian club’s biggest talents, including players below the age of 18 (“minors”).
In 2006 and 2007, FC Midtjylland among others registered 6 minors. The Danish Football Association (DBU) registered them as amateurs, which meant that they could only receive a maximum amount of Euro 3,219 per year.
The players had a short-term residence permit, which did not include the right to work.
Midtjylland arranged board and lodging for the players and gave them some “pocket money”, which did not exceed the Euro 3,219. And the minors were given an upper secondary school education for approximately 13 hours per week.
In February 2007, FIFPRO decided to file a case with FIFA against FC Midtjylland and the Danish Football Association (DBU), because the club was systematically transferring minor Nigerian players in violation of article 19 of the FIFA Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players.
FIFA agreed with FIFPRO and found that the transfer rules were applicable to both amateurs and professionals. The Danish FA and Midtjylland received “strong warnings”.
DBU accepted the verdict, whereas FC Midtjylland appealed with international sports tribunal CAS, defending itself that the Nigerian players were mainly in Denmark as students. CAS did not consider this argument was well-founded and upheld FIFA’s verdict.
Why is this verdict so important?
Danish FIFPRO board member Mads Oland explained the importance of this case: ”FIFA’s regulations are intended to protect against trafficking of underage players from Third World countries and must be observed by all clubs – including FC Midtjylland. The rule is necessary and without it we can end up in an unpleasant situation where European clubs compete for bringing in a large number of hopeful underage players. After the preliminary sorting, most players will be sent back home with the sense of failure. Or even worse, they end up being sent from club to club in Europe. Ultimately, only very few end up making it.”
In 2009, FIFA launched new regulations to protect young players from exploitation by professional football clubs, which limited trafficking of minors.
Photo: Agidun Salami (left) is one of the Nigerian players who arrived from FC Ebedei (ANP Photos)