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Improvements in FIFA Regulations, the ban on Third Party Ownership and its consequences for the players, and interesting points of view concerning arbitration clauses were some of the issues discussed during FIFPro America’s third legal conference, held last week in Bogota by the Colombian professional footballers association, Acolfutpro.

The two-day event illustrated that the status of the American legal conference is steadily growing. Acolfutpro welcomed many respected lawyers and legal experts from FIFPro player unions, as well as Omar Ongaro, the Head of the FIFA Player Status Committee, and Luis Bedoya, Conmebol Executive Committee Member and President of the Colombian FA (FCF). More than ten Colombian professional football clubs sent their representatives, just as the football associations of Peru and Brasil.

FIFPro America was delighted with the presence of several active professional footballers. Their attendance enriched the event, as they are the people who have experienced what is discussed at the meeting and will have to deal with the consequences of possible changes to the game’s regulations.

FIFPro Secretary General Theo van Seggelen was the first to emphasise those experiences and consequences, as he shared the world players’ union’s point of view regarding the current FIFA Regulations on the status and transfer of players. Van Seggelen confirmed the recent improvement in these regulations, such as the prohibition on Third Party Ownership, the new rules on intermediaries and the fast-track procedure for overdue payables.

But, Van Seggelen concluded, there are still many issues which need to be addressed quickly. “We cannot close our eyes that the transfer system is still failing 99 percent of our players.”

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FIFA’s Omar Ongaro (photo) was quick to sum up the improvements to the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber made after strong criticism from FIFPro and its unions concerning the length of arbitration. Previously cases sometimes took three years to reach a conclusion. Currently, the DRC has one sessions every three weeks. Additionally, FIFA recently altered procedural rules in order to have shorter procedures. For instance, it has become impossible to modify the claim or reply after the closure of FIFA’s investigation, and there is a limitation in the extension of terms. Ongaro claims that nowadays the DRC will come to a decision in eight to twelve months.

Ongaro also addressed the changes to regulations concerning minors. FIFA has lowered the age limit for the Minors Transfer Matching System from 12 to 10 years, again reacting on FIFPro’s complaints about players being transferred at a very young age. He added that it is up to all national football associations to ensure that the requirements of article 19 of the FIFA RSTP are complied with to protect the players under 10 years.

Concerning the recent ban on Third Party Ownership, Ongaro explained that according to the definition, players could also be considered third parties in case they have agreed to a clause in their contract that guarantees a percentage of a future transfer fee. However, Ongaro thought that the right to a percentage of the transfer sum could still be valid if this “right” is defined in a collective bargaining agreement or law, since the article 18 of the RSTP only prohibits an agreement in the contract. Ongaro emphasiesed that this analysis was his personal view, and that it is up to the FIFA Disciplinary Committee to interpret the article.

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Rodrigo Uprymni Yepes (photo left) and Ernesto Gamboa (photo right) presented some food for thought provoking information about arbitration. Uprymni, Director of Colombian human rights organisation Dejusticia, stated that arbitration has to be consented by both parties (club and player) in order to have effect . If an arbitration clause is included in a preformatted, non-negotiable contract, the signature of the player does not imply consent to the arbitration, because the arbitration is imposed (unless the standard contract is negotiated by the union). Gamboa (an advisor of the Colombian FA and Dimayor) agreed that the agreement of the parties was essential to enable arbitration, though, he added that if the player accepts affiliation to a Federation with an arbitral clause in the Statutes of the Federation then he also accepts arbitration.

It was one example of the many juridical interactions of FIFPro America’s third legal conference.

Click on the links below for presentations of the FIFPro America Legal Conference (in Spanish)