The business of transferring minors in football - can more be done to protect young footballers?

Published 23 October 2015 By: Matt Rogers

Young_Footballer_Going_for_the_Ball

"People must realise that we are talking about kids playing football. We are not talking about business or professional football…there is more to life than football, that a child's life and happiness is worth more than a handful of money..." FIFPro President, Theo Van Seggelen, 2015.1

In March 2015, FIFA reduced the age of minors requiring an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) from 12 years to 10 years after a strong recommendation from the world’s professional players union FIFPro.2 This was the latest change to Article 19 of FIFA’s Regulation on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP),3 which governs the protection of ‘minors’ (defined as players age 18 and under) and aims to protect the welfare and development of young players in the fight against exploitationand child trafficking.

This article will analyse the effectiveness and sufficiency of FIFA’s current system of protecting minors.

 

The European market

The commerciality of European football is at an all time high. In 2015, a report by Deloitte4 into the financial performance of Europe’s twenty richest clubs for the 2013/2014 season showed that the aggregate annual revenue had surpassed £6bn. These extra revenues and the high stakes at play for winning a league or competing in competitions such as the UEFA’s Champions league have been contributing factors in driving up player transfers and wages.5

As a mean to address this, clubs have invested in alternative and more cost-effective means of acquiring talent by investing in young players. In Europe, competition is fierce, highlighted by Real Madrid’s acquisition of sixteen year-old wonderkid Martin Odegaard for around £2.3m on wages rumoured to be £80,000 per week.6 With some of the world’s brightest young footballing talents available in Africa, South America and Asia at a lower price and in less competitive circumstances than in Europe, clubs have opted to take a risk on a number of players from these regions in the hope that they return a significant profit. The European Clubs Association (ECA) Report on Youth Academiesin Europe7 study highlighted that Arsenal preferred to recruit youth players from overseas citing the inflation of transfer fees in English football as the main reason.

As clubs vie for new talent with agents ready to benefit financially, the needs of a child can appear at times to come secondary. For those that arrive at academies from outside Europe, including ‘strawman’ academies where players are attracted to academies on the base that the academies claim they have close ties with some of Europe major clubs. For others trying to achieve the European dream, they risk becoming victims of unscrupulous agents looking to profit at their expense resulting in extreme numbers of trafficked players.8

 

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Matt Rogers

Matt Rogers

@sportslawmatt

Matt is a law graduate who has aspirations to become an international lawyer. His legal work experience includes that of City and regional law firms in addition to pro bono experience and extensive research into Japanese sports betting law. He has recently spent two years living in Japan to broaden his knowledge of a different culture and legal system. His sporting interests lie predominantly in football, tennis, boxing and cycling.

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