How FIFA TMS's Global Player Exchange is changing how football clubs conduct international transfers


Published 24 February 2017 | Authored by: Dr. Jasser Kassab

A platform enabling global and direct communication as well as access to official data in the international transfer market.

This article explains how the FIFA TMS’s Global Player Exchange[1] (“GPX”) platform has been developed to increase transparency and to protect the integrity of international football transfers, by addressing the concerns and issues faced by clubs and member associations regarding direct communication and sharing of official transfer data. 

Specifically, this piece explains:

  • Examples of the problems experienced by clubs when conducting international transfers
  • The birth of GPX
  • The development and roll out of the platform
  • Key features of the platform:
    • Communication
    • Accurate data
  • GPX Today
  • Comment

 

Introduction

In 2016, 178 associations and 4,379 football clubs were involved in 14,591 international player transfers (male, 11-a side football), a new record which represents an increase of 7.3% in comparison to 2015. Spending on transfer fees has also reached the new record high of USD 4.79 billion.[2] During these dealings and negotiations, clubs and association executives across the world need to be in constant contact to ensure transfers take place smoothly. Over the years, there have been many instances where clubs have experienced difficulties during the transfers process in a specific transfer window.

In addition to administrative problems, there have also been instances where individuals have taken days or even weeks to get in contact with the “right person in a club on the other side of the planet”, not knowing whether they are really talking to the person in charge.[3] This highlights the complicated nature of identifying authenticated staff at associations and/or clubs. When an official within a club cannot easily find a legitimate contact in another club or association, significant and costly delays can occur. Sometimes delays can take many weeks, leading to adverse consequences for all stakeholders involved.

 

Stakeholder Focus Groups – Examples of the problems

During a FIFA TMS GPX focus group meeting in Germany in Summer 2015, a German club recounted the case of a player transfer with a South American club. The negotiations between the two clubs were almost concluded and ready for signature when the German club learned that the person “on the other side” was not authorised to sign on behalf of the club. The entire negotiation process was rendered obsolete and had to start anew.

During another FIFA TMS GPX focus group meeting in Portugal, a second division Portuguese club recounted their story. Their Sports Director needed to get in touch with a second division club in Uruguay. With no known website, completely outside their network and working against a deadline, the Portuguese club officials in their desperation contacted the local Uruguayan radio station and asked for a broadcast to be put out to the city. A couple of days later, an executive from the club came back to them and the deadline was met.

These are just two examples of how the lack of trustworthy, reliable communication channels and the identification of the verified and authenticated contacts can be inefficient, costly and leave clubs and associations exposed to risks.

 

The birth of GPX

To address these inefficiencies and increase transparency to the process of football transfers, FIFA TMS developed the new GPX. GPX is on the one hand an exclusive networking tool that provides a private and secure platform for clubs and associations worldwide to communicate with each other directly and discreetly. Compared to other football platforms, GPX is exclusively for football professionals. And on the other hand, the platform allows clubs and associations to access the official international player transfer data.

 

The Development and Roll Out of GPX

During the development stages of GPX, the GPX team conducted two full rounds of focus groups with more than 90 clubs across all FIFA confederations and tier-levels. More than 120 executives from the Legal, Finance, Sport and other departments were shown different “GPX platform prototypes” with different feature sets and were invited to comment and provide feedback. The results provided a good overview of the “pain points” in the transfer market.

Two topics, however, stood out as they were mentioned in almost every focus group, independent of club geography and tier-level. They were: “communication” and “accurate data”.

 

Communication

Club executives mentioned that a closed and secure “club-to-club communication” platform would facilitate their dealings with other clubs, not only around transfers, but also around the setup of “friendly games” or asking for advice in marketing, management or administrative topics. They also mentioned that they´d eventually find the right contact person in the club, but that it could take days or weeks using their personal networks.

With the FIFA International Transfer Matching System (ITMS) in place, GPX was in the ideal position to leverage the authenticated and verified club and association contacts for the roll-out of its communication component. ITMS had already been introduced in October 2010, as a secure, online and real-time system that was mandatory for all international transfers of professional footballers (it is in accordance with the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players). It revolutionised the way that player transfers are conducted, moving away from faxes to a web-based way of interchanging and processing information. The objectives were to increase transparency and integrity in the football transfer market by "increasing data available to football authorities on every transaction and to enforce rules on the protection of minors” (see here for more details on “FIFA TMS investigations increase transparency and accountability in international football transfers[4]). Today, a transfer can be conducted in minutes rather than days or even weeks.

To access the ITMS system, association and club employees undergo training and must sign a variety of compliance and data-protection related documents. Therefore – to ensure the highest degrees of authenticity, verification and integrity – GPX uses the infrastructure of authenticated “ITMS users” in clubs and associations to roll-out the new communication platform. Authenticated ITMS users receive an invitation to join the platform and the possibility to invite more staff and users from their club or association, thereby acting as a “gatekeeper” or “GPX manager” for GPX and their clubs.

 

Accurate data 

Official transfer data on players was the second topic that was repeatedly mentioned in focus groups globally besides communication.

GPX shares the official transfer data of all 80,000+ international player transfers since 2010 in a data-protection and security conforming way, making it available to club and association executives who otherwise do not have access to the regulatory ITMS platform. Club and association users can use this data to follow the trajectories of current or former players for talent detection and solidarity and training compensation purposes, for example (for a detailed review of solidarity and training compensation see here[5]). This function empowers smaller clubs to follow their former talents along their professional journey.

 

GPX Today

The GPX platform was formally announced to FIFA members in a circular on 15 May 2015.[6]

Today, GPX is used by more than 1,750 professional football clubs in more than 180 countries, and is becoming the most authenticated and updated “phone book” in football. It is available on mobile devices (Android, iOS) as well as web, and is used by a variety of different persons within clubs and associations: administrative assistants, coaches, Sport Directors, Heads of Finance and Legal, CEOs, Presidents and Secretary Generals. Users can easily browse through the FIFA hierarchy starting from the confederation level (AFC, CAF, CONCACAF, CONMEBOL, OFC, UEFA), down to the association (e.g. ABFF, DBU, DFB, UAEFA, etc.), rdown to the specific club (Al-Shabab Club, Shanghai Shenxin FC, etc.) and right down to the staff level (Director of Sports, Marketing Manager, Head of Finance, Administration etc).

Users can choose the person whom they would like to contact. Tags, such as the “handshake symbol” next to the names, show whether the person is in charge for “player negotiations”, and is entitled to sign on behalf of the club; or whether the person is in charge for the “ITMS platform” (TMS letter symbol). If the mobile app is installed, the user will get a pop-up notification similar to “WhatsApp”, but without the need to share the mobile phone number or the email address. It is all securely handled by GPX. 

 

Summary

With GPX, FIFA TMS has made another big step to further improve the football transfer market: an authenticated and expanding communications platform that holds contact data and relevant transfer information on international player transfers.

Based on this outlook, FIFA and FIFA TMS’s goals to improve governance, reduce inefficiencies, and increase transparency, integrity and visibility, are another step towards being achieved. The user feedback so far has confirmed that FIFA TMS's participatory approach – to design and develop the GPX platform together and closely with clubs and associations – has been beneficial. Clubs mainly appreciate that they can review all relevant data on official international player transfers since 2010.

The increased transparency around the data and the possibility to reach out directly to their peers has been highly appreciated. The options to further extend GPX and thereby to further improve the market are vast.

 

Acknowledgements

The author wants to thank the following contributors for their hard work, support and advice in the planning and in the implementation phases of the GPX project, in no particular order: Mark Goddard, Marco Villiger and the FIFA Legal team, Thorsten Apel, FIFA Finance, Kimberly Morris, Christian Jenny, Stephan Kronbichler, Dick Wiles, David Dellea, Ioannis Meletiadis, David Lampitt, Theo van Seggelen, Andrew Orsatti, Jonas Baer-Hoffmann, Tijs Tummers, Joachim Walltin, Julia Jacobsson, Jesse Szepieniec, Marc Cosandey, Esther Petrocelli, Vira Egli, Laura Corica, James Holroyd, the entire Application Management, Sales and Marketing, Client Services, Project Management, and Integrity and Compliance teams of FIFA TMS. Last but not least, the author wants to thank the innumerable contributors from the numerous clubs, associations and leagues, as well as confederations around the world for their valuable feedback and support.

 

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About the Author

Dr. Jasser Kassab

Dr. Jasser Kassab

Dr Jasser Kassab was the GPX Project Manager at FIFA TMS (from October 2013). He holds a Master degree from TU Darmstadt (Germany) and a Master degree from Ecole Centrale de Lyon (France).

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