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How FIFA TMS investigations increase transparency and accountability in international football transfers

Monday, 13 June 2016 By Kimberly Morris, Barry Lysaght

With the UEFA European Championships, Copa America Centenario and the Olympic Games Rio 2016 all taking place this summer, fans certainly have a veritable feast of football to look forward to in 2016.

As well as spoiling spectators for choice, these international tournaments also represent a valuable opportunity for players to put themselves in the proverbial shop window for clubs scouting out new recruits. Indeed, the ‘tournament effect’ on the transfer market is a live phenomenon, with FIFA TMS’s Global Transfer Market 2015 reporting1 an 18% increase in the number of transfers of players whose countries had reached the quarter finals of the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil. Furthermore, transfer fees jumped by 27% in the wake of the competition when compared with the same period in the previous year. Tournaments, then, are a catalyst for transfers and increased spending on transfer fees.

However, this spike in financial activity brings with it a heightened focus on compliance with the rules governing the international transfer market. As FIFA is the global regulator of the international transfer market, all international transfers of players must adhere to transfer ‘laws’ set out in the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (“RSTP”).2 The task of ensuring that the 211 member associations and over 7,000 clubs who engage in the transfer of professional players around the globe follow these laws is the role of both FIFA TMS Integrity and Compliance department (“I&C”) as well as the FIFA Disciplinary Committee (“FIFA DisCo”). With over 14,000 transfers of professional players completed each year, I&C is primarily responsible for ensuring that all clubs and associations act in a transparent and accountable manner throughout the transfer process. The goal is to ensure fairness and a level playing field based on integrity and accountability.


Background to FIFA TMS

International transfers of professional footballers are processed through the FIFA International Transfer Matching System (ITMS) in accordance with the RSTP – a ground-breaking technological and regulatory development which has revolutionised how such transfers are done.

In 2007, the 57th FIFA congress voted to create the ITMS online system for male 11 a-side international football transfers as one of the recommendations of the FIFA task force ‘For the Good of the Game.’ The objectives were to increase integrity and transparency in the market by increasing data available to football authorities on every transaction and to enforce rules on the protection of minors. In October 2010, the regulations relating to use of ITMS were included in Annexe 3 of the RSTP, making ITMS a mandatory step for all international transfers of professional male footballers through a secure, online and real-time system.

Aside from setting out the obligations and procedures governing the international transfer process, annexe 3 also recognises the delegated authority given to FIFA TMS by the FIFA DisCo to investigate, gather evidence and impose sanctions against non-compliant stakeholders. In addition to the delegated authority given by FIFA DisCo (as described in point 4 herein), Article 7.4 of annexe 3 states that FIFA TMS shall investigate matters in relation to international transfers and that “All parties are obliged to collaborate to establish the facts”.

This ‘collaboration’ is wide-ranging and includes compliance, on reasonable notice, with “requests for any documents, information or any other material of any nature held by the parties” as well as any such material which is “not held by the parties but which the parties are entitled to obtain”. As FIFA TMS also “helps safeguard the protection of minors” (Article 1.3, Annexe 3), I&C’s investigative remit is given even broader scope by Article 4.4 of Annexe 2, which requires stakeholders to collaborate with FIFA TMS requests for material concerning the international transfer of minors. As a consequence, I&C investigates issues concerning the international transfers of all male professional players aged 18 and over, as well as all players under the age of 18 – male and female, amateur and professional.


Sources and intelligence

I&C has a broad variety of sources to draw upon when it comes to gathering information about possible breaches of the RSTP. Internal resources include weekly compliance checks on the data and documents entered in ITMS, information sharing from other FIFA Legal Departments and internally generated reports on stakeholder activity and responsiveness. Media reporting and analysis, of course, are a valuable external source of valuable leads and information, while FIFA TMS also encourages the involvement of clubs and associations in the compliance process through an online ‘non-compliance report form’ which registered TMS users can access through ITMS to report suspicious activity.

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Written by

Kimberly Morris

Kimberly Morris

Kimberly Morris is the Head of FIFA TMS Integrity and Compliance department.  She is a former commercial litigation lawyer, and is a Barrister and Solicitor qualified in Canada and England & Wales.

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Barry Lysaght

Barry Lysaght

Barry Lysaght is Integrity and Compliance Counsel for FIFA TMS GmbH.

Admitted to the Roll of Solicitors of Ireland, Barry also holds qualifications in Sports Law and European Human Rights Law. Barry’s previous professional experience includes sports governance, regulatory and disciplinary matters, litigation and refugee and asylum seeker law.

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