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Football’s transfer system is back in the spotlight with FIFPro leading calls for change at a meeting of the game’s major European stakeholders.

 

FIFPro, on behalf of professional footballers wordwide, together with UEFA, ECA and EPFL convened in Brussels, on Monday (December 2) for the Plenary Meeting of the European Social Dialogue Committee under the auspices of the European Commission. The plenary brought together representatives of clubs, leagues and player unions – from the 28 EU member states and beyond.

 

The European Commission provided the participants with presentations on important studies it had recently commissioned on UEFA’s Home-Grown Players rule and a second on the economic and legal aspects of the transfer system. In the presence of representatives from the responsible Commission services for sport, social dialogue, free movement and competition an engaged discussion framed the current concerns of football players’ rights.

 

“Both studies presented by the Commission today are relevant as they confirm FIFPro’s concerns about the incompatibility of the current football regulations with football players’ rights as workers and EU citizens. More so, their analysis on the current regulations’ effect – or lack thereof – on competitive balance in football is significant”, summarized Bobby Barnes, President of FIFPro Division Europe.

 

Barnes added, “We urgently must ensure a balance of power between players and clubs – a balance the vast majority of players are not experiencing. Our industry loses significant amounts of resources to exorbitant agent fees and unjustifiable investment methods like third party ownership. At the same time far too many players – in Eastern Europe more than 40% - are being paid late or not at all and many clubs are struggling financially or go bankrupt. Football must find a systemic response to this.”

 

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Bobby Barnes and Philippe Piat

 

 

FIFPro President Philippe Piat added: “The informal agreement between FIFA, UEFA and the European Commission in 2001 sought to establish a balance between EU law, the rights of footballers as workers established therein and the competitive characteristics of the football industry. 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 compensations not in compliance with the Bernard ruling, no reciprocity in calculation of breaches of contracts and the artificial extension of the protected period in a manner never envisaged in 2001. All of this and more needs to be urgently addressed.”

 

“We are ready and willing to continue the dialogue and negotiations with our industry partners within the relevant football forums as well as in the social dialogue. But FIFPro can no longer accept these infringements of our members’ fundamental freedoms and we feel urged to consider all possibilities to ensure footballers can enjoy the same rights as any other worker in the EU”, concluded Bobby Barnes.

 

The stakeholders discussed amongst others the progress made by the Social Dialogue Committee’s working groups on career funds, respect of contracts/contractual stability and in particular the recent efforts in the implementation of last year’s autonomous agreement on minimum requirements of standard player contracts. After the organization of three “Kick-Off meetings” for national stakeholders at the beginning of the year at the head-quarters of UEFA the members of the Social Dialogue Committee recently commenced a series of task-force meetings in the targeted countries.

 

“We are very encouraged by the progress we were able to make so far in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Ukraine and Russia. More so, by the commitment of all parties to improve the employment standards in the entire UEFA territory”, said Mads Oland, board member of FIFPro Division Europe. “We were also delighted to be able to inform our partners, that the European Commission will provide significant funding for our joint efforts to bring better and comparable labor standards to players across Europe. The minimum requirements once implemented will have a significant impact not only for the players but for the stability of national football competitions.”

 

The plenary approved a mandate to establish a work program of the Committee for 2014 and 2015 before the Committee will reconvene in its three existing working groups in March 2015.