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FIFPro and FIFA signed a six-year agreement in a bid to forge closer ties between the two organisations and strengthen the governance of professional football around the world. This historic agreement was the culmination of 18 months of negotiations with the sport’s key stakeholders. It aims to reshape the daily lives of tens of thousands of players. Philippe Piat, FIFPro President, gives us his insights into the new agreement.


How did this agreement come about?

The idea stemmed from a very real need to reform the transfer system. It’s a cause we’ve been championing at FIFPro for more than a decade.

We’ve seen transfer regulations fall away steadily, to the point that the system is now completely out of control. Fees have risen exponentially, with the benefits accruing to a small minority of people. The powers that be have simply stood aside and watched. The damage has been immense – players have limited freedom of movement and clubs are severely restricted in what they can do.

FIFA ignored our repeated calls for action. So we were left with no option but to lodge a complaint with the European Commission in September 2015. We had to do something to put an end to these unacceptable practices.

So the complaint was the trigger?

Yes. It made FIFA and other stakeholders stand up and take notice of something we’d been decrying for a long time. Then, the summer 2017 transfer window happened. What happened this summer really galvanised the process. We saw players being sold for astronomical fees – Neymar was a prime example of that. That brought about a change of attitude at the very highest level, as FIFA came around to our way of thinking. This summer’s deals were a wake-up call for everyone. They exposed the system’s sheer excesses and abnormalities.

Eighteen months ago, we resumed talks with FIFA and its president, Gianni Infantino. It was a fruitful, if intense, exercise. We made our case loud and clear. We brought compelling evidence to the table. And the excesses we’ve seen in the interim really crystallised our argument.

You call this a “historic” agreement. How, in practical terms, will it benefit football in general and players in particular?

This new agreement is truly historic because it will shake up the entire system from top to bottom. We’ve already passed motions to crack down on clubs everywhere that fail to pay their players or to honour contracts. We’ve brought in a series of new, accelerated procedures and sanctions to tackle this problem.

Can you explain in more detail what that means?

Last year, FIFPro surveyed a sample of 14,000 players from across the globe. Over 41% of respondents said they weren’t being paid on time. That’s simply unacceptable.

It was necessary to improve conditions for players to defend themselves and be free to find a new club, without the payment of a transfer fee, when they are not receiving their salary. So it’s a real step in the right direction.

We’re currently in talks about reforms on many other vital issues such as agents’ roles and fees, player loans, squad size limits, the international match calendar, training compensation, under-age player transfers and transfer window arrangements.

So Mr Infantino now shares your long-held view about the out-of-control transfer system?

I’ve met with Mr Infantino on several occasions. We’ve come to a shared view about the problems that have beset the professional game. And we also recognise that urgent reform is needed to stop the bubble bursting. It’s an issue that everyone in the sport agrees on.

The impact of a financial collapse doesn’t bear thinking about. That’s why our two organisations needed to join forces – to prevent the worst from happening, and to break down partisan divides and work together in the interest of football as a whole.

We also agreed that the lion share of transfers involve some sort of unlawful activity, and in some cases even embezzlement, and that the perpetrators should be brought to justice.

Mr Infantino has gone to great lengths to clean up FIFA since his appointment. I’ve found him to be an open, honest person who has listened to players and placed their concerns at the top of the agenda.

What about your complaint against FIFA?

FIFA has shown renewed willingness to cooperate with us and address players’ concerns in a meaningful way. With this commitment in mind, we will withdraw our complaint.

This agreement is an impressive accomplishment. You’ve managed to secure a consensus on these issues across all the governing bodies – FIFA, FIFPro, the clubs and leagues. And you’ve initiated meaningful discussions on various structural reforms that will herald a brighter future for our sport.

Through our hard work, persistence and expert analysis, we’ve managed to get all the major stakeholders on side – FIFA, UEFA, club and league associations. Professional football’s very survival is at stake. And I don’t say that lightly.

These days, a small minority of people wield disproportionate power with utter impunity. They use the game to their own advantage and do everyone else a disservice. We have to break down monopolies, stamp out unfair competitive practices, and restore the sense of balance we had in the past.