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Key resources to better understand the football transfer system


Published 16 August 2016 | Authored by: Jake Cohen

Football transfers throw up a wide array of issue and challenges for lawyers, from ensuring correct work permits are in place, to third party financing, to the involvement of agents and intermediaries.

LawInSport has published a range of articles to help both professionals and football fans alike better understand these key legal issues. With the transfer window in full swing, we have set out a selection of our articles below to provide a perfect resource for anyone wanting to learn more about this dynamic area of the football industry.

 

Overview of key legal issues

The author put targeted questions to a number of top lawyers and agents actively working in the transfer market to shine light on the most topical legal issues facing the industry right now. The responses provide a useful framework for the area expanded on below:

 

FIFA’s Transfer Matching System

Since 2010, it has been mandatory for all international transfers to be processed through FIFA’s online Transfer Matching System (FIFA TMS). Though seldom discussed, it is a crucial step towards completing international (and increasingly, domestic) transfers.

Kimberly Morris and Barry Lysaght, the head and deputy head of integrity and compliance at FIFA TMS, have written an extensive article on what the TMS system is and how it works:

Barry Lysaght has also written an engaging article on international loan regulations. With clubs like Chelsea having drafted an impressive “loan army” and Manchester City seemingly following suit, understanding how international loans work is increasingly important:

 

Work permits

Carol Couse and Tiran Gunawardena, lawyers in the sports team at Mills & Reeve, have written an excellent article that serves as an overview of The Football Association’s new work permit system and proposals for amendments to the home-grown player rules:

 

Agents / intermediaries

Agents can and do provide invaluable services to footballer clients. However, FIFA’s new “intermediaries regulations” have arguably created more room for less scrupulous individuals to operate in the market.

Daniel Geey, a partner in the sports group at Sheridans, and John Mehrzad, a barrister and head of the sports law group at Littleton Chambers, have written a handy and easily accessible guide to understanding The FA’s regulations on working with intermediaries, which came into force in April 2015:

Daniel Lowen, a partner at Couchmans, wrote a more detailed overview of the FA agent regulations, summarising each regulation and noting each of the substantive changes:

Andrew Nixon, a partner in the sports group at Sheridans discussed the duties and obligations of football agents beyond just the FIFA and FA regulations:

Nick De Marco, a barrister and sports law expert at Blackstone Chambers, looked ahead to the potential legal fallout of the widespread changes to the FA’s agent regulations:

John Mehrzad and Grahame Anderson, a barrister in the sports law group at Littleton Chambers, analysed the FA intermediary regulations alongside the FIFA intermediary regulations:

 

Article 19 issues – transfer of minors

Article 19 of FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players bans clubs from engaging in international transfers of players who are less than eighteen years old, unless one of three exceptions are met.

In recent years, high-profile clubs have been sanctioned by FIFA for violating Article 19, including Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Atletico Madrid.

John Shea, a solicitor at Shoosmiths specialising in litigation and sports law, examined the issues involved in FIFA’s decision to sanction Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid with a transfer ban arising out breaching Article 19. As both clubs have appealed this decision, John also provides insights as to the clubs’ prospects on appeal:

 

FIFPro’s legal challenge to the transfer system

FIFPro, the international players union for professional footballers has filed a competition law complaint before the European Commission, arguing that the global transfer system is anti-competitive and illegal.

Angelique Bret, a partner in the EU and competition law group at Pinset Masons, wrote a comprehensive article on the legal issues involved in FIFPro’s claim and provided some analysis of possible outcomes and their ramifications:

Nick De Marco and Alex Mills, a member of Blackstone Chambers, wrote an overview of FIFPro’s challenge, focusing on the competition law issues involved in the claim:

 

Third-party ownership

FIFA banned third-party ownership (TPO) in 2015. However, as a result of TPO deals concluded prior to May 2015 remaining valid as a result of being “grandfathered in,” third-party ownership is still very much a part of transfers.

Richard Berry, an associate in the sports group at Lewis Silkin, wrote an overview of FIFA’s ban on third-party ownership, providing insights into the specific regulation, Article 18ter, and analysing the effects of the ban on the global transfer market:

Mariana Rosignoli, a partner at S. Santos Rodrigues Lawyers, wrote about the immediate effects of the third-party ownership ban as relates to Brazil, where the practice was a major part of the football industry. Also of interest is the article of, Poonam Majithia, intellectual property and sports lawyer at CMS Cameron McKenna, which looked at the importance of TPO in Brazil and the Portuguese connection prior to the introduction of the TPO ban:

Luis Villas-Boas Pires, a sports lawyer at MRGL, analysed the consequences of the TPO ban and proposed alternative financing models for clubs who had previously relied heavily on third-party ownership as part of their business models:

Luis also wrote about the Court of Arbitration for Sport involving Doyen and Sporting CP over Marcos Rojo’s transfer to Manchester United (CAS 2014/O/3781-2) case at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Specifically, Luis uses this case to highlight how third-party ownership works in practice:

If you enjoyed this, please see our related feature: Key resources to better understand transfer costs in football

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About the Author

Jake Cohen

Jake Cohen

Jake is a Consultant Mills & Reeve and an attorney working on both sides of the pond.

He has worked in the sports team at Mills & Reeve, and also writes about legal, economic, and financial issues in European sport for the Wall Street Journal, ESPN, and other publications. He has been cited as an authority by media outlets all over the world.

At one time, he was a serviceable fly-half.

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