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FIFPro board member Mads Øland voiced the world’s footballers unions’ concerns with the transfer system, at the EU Sport Forum in Lithuania: ‘If a transfer system is to be maintained, we must establish a balance of power between clubs and players’.


On Monday, 30 September, and Tuesday, 1 October, the European Union holds its annual Sport Forum, a central component of the structured dialogue between the European institutions and the sports movement, in Vilnius, Lithuania.


Following the recent publication of an independent study on transfer systems of players which was funded by the European Commission, a panel debate was held at the Sport Forum, featuring the main stakeholders of football – FIFA, UEFA, EPFL, ECA and FIFPro – as well as the governing bodies of rugby (IRB) and basketball (FIBA).


On this occasion FIFPro board member Mads Øland, who represented the player unions on the panel, addressed the continuous infringements of players' rights and called for changes to the transfer system: ‘The 2001 negotiations sought to establish a balance between EU law, the rights of footballers as workers established therein and the characteristics of football competitions. Yet to this day, the FIFA transfer regulations and their practical application continue to impede the players’ freedom to move, and the careers of the majority of footballers remain at the mercy of their employers. Training compensation, which continues to disobey the ruling of the Bernard case, non-reciprocal calculation of compensation for breach of contract and artificial extension of the protected period are only a few of the ways in which the players' ability to move is deliberately restricted’.


‘The stability of contracts in European football is threatened. Every day, players all over Europe face the reality of not being paid for their labour, being isolated from their team and forced to train alone. If a transfer system is to be maintained, we must establish a balance of power between clubs and players’.


That the EU held this panel on this important occasion is of encouragement to FIFPro and demonstrates that the reform of the transfer regulations is as urgent as ever – not only for football stakeholders but also for the European Union. FIFPro is convinced that the transfer system must finally be brought in line with the Acquis communautaire. Øland: ‘Two recent studies commissioned by the EU – on the transfer system and home- grown player rule – confirmed our concerns about the incompatibility of football regulations with EU law. FIFPro is ready to engage in dialogue with the football stakeholders and with the European Commission to develop the necessary reforms. But for this to be successful, all stakeholders must accept that the reforms have to be developed with a conscious commitment to EU law and that the relevant dialogue must be continued with the European Commission and within the European Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee’.


Øland also reminded representatives of government and EU institutions that the consequences of these inadequate transfer regulations extended far beyond the football industry: ‘We know from the FIFA TMS Report that at least 28% of payments related to international transfers is paid to agents. We know that the influence of third party ownership over the football industry continues to grow. FIFPro proved with its study ‘Black Book Eastern Europe’ how the unacceptable labour standards in Eastern European clubs and leagues influenced the occurrence of match fixing. We must recognise and be very concerned that these factors not only hurt our industry but invite criminal activity. Football must give a systemic response to these challenges. We must improve governance standards and regulate our industry successfully instead of limiting freedom for individual players’.



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