017 – UEFA and FIFPro launch complaint against third-party ownership
UEFA and FIFPro Division Europe have today formally launched a complaint with the European Commission, questioning the legality of third-party player ownership (TPO) within European law on the basis that it is harmful to the interests of players, clubs and fans, and also undermines the standing and integrity of the game. Although some national football associations have previously acted to bring this practice to an end, there has been no consistency of approach within Europe.
UEFA is the governing body of European football, with a mandate to protect the overall interests of the game and act as a representative voice for European football as a whole. FIFPro has a specific remit to pursue and defend the interests of professional players, including their right to a dignified and honourable existence.
Inherent in the practice of TPO is the desire and ability of so-called 'investors' to control and/or influence the transfer activity of players who are the subject of a TPO arrangement (including players who are not even aware that their 'economic rights' have been sold to a third party). Third parties are driven by a simple motivation, which is to maximise the 'return' on their 'stake' in individual players. UEFA and FIFPro consider that this is not in the best interests of players, clubs or the game of football more generally. Players (including young and vulnerable players) can be exposed to the whims of third parties. In the meantime, clubs can be driven into a vicious circle of debt and dependence.
The practice of TPO undermines the employment relationship between clubs and players and interferes with important European Union (EU) legal norms. The practice is also directly contrary to the principles articulated and accepted by the European Commission itself back in 2001, when it previously conducted and concluded a far-reaching investigation into the player transfer rules in Europe. UEFA and FIFPro therefore call on the Commission to investigate the practice of TPO and to fully endorse FIFA's decision to prohibit such arrangements.
The UEFA Executive Committee originally called for FIFA to ban TPO as a matter of principle back in December 2012, subsequent to the recommendations of the Professional Football Strategy Council (PFSC). FIFA has recently introduced a worldwide ban on TPO which will come into effect from 1 May 2015.
Commenting on the launch of the complaint, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino said: "Third-party player ownership is a kind of modern slavery, where you see players belonging to investment funds, or other, generally unidentified, corporate entities. Clearly, this is not something that can be accepted by European law and this is precisely why we have now, together with FIFPro, asked the European Commission to investigate and to declare third-party ownership illegal."
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