Last year FIFPro, the union that represents footballers around the world, launched a legal action against FIFA in the hope of outlawing the transfer system and fundamentally changing the professional game. However, their proposals are noble but unrealistic…
The union believes the transfer system, as it has stood since 2001, has failed to deliver on his promises. FIFPro argues the system has not delivered contractual stability, it has not helped redistribute money from big to small clubs, and it has not helped bring more competitive leagues, with football agents taking big cuts in transfer deals.
Some of their proposals should be implied as soon as possible. Like the one where “any player not paid by their club for more than 30 days can terminate their contract providing they have given the club at least 10 days’ written notice”. Currently that period is 90 days and the player must take its case to FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber. So no doubt this is a great proposal by the union.
However, there are others that are very noble but far from realistic and even conflicting with its own goals. Here, I will be looking at two specific proposals: abolishing transfer fees and ending the loan system.
Abolishing transfer fees hurts small clubs
FIFPro argues that big clubs are providing financial imbalance due to the fact that they are able to spend huge transfer fees on the players they like, which smaller clubs can’t afford. On top, the union believes smaller clubs gamble on selling one or two star players to sustain themselves. Therefore, transfer fees should be abolished to create more balance.
In essence, the union is trying to create the same system that stands in the NBA, the biggest professional basketball league in the United States. Instead of paying transfer fees, football clubs will engage in a contract trading system. One big contract for another one. In theory, this could help to diminish the gap between big and small clubs.
But in football, it will only hurt smaller clubs. In the NBA, there is one market and one set of rules. In European football, there are different markets and different sets of rules when it comes to, for example, TV deals, resources of income, and the legal amount of foreign players. Clubs like Udinese and Palermo have been amazing at scouting young talents all over the world, giving them a chance to shine, and selling them with a profit. That gives them an edge to sustain their great work. If you take that away, you hurt them.
If FIFPro is serious about competitiveness, they should aim for one set of rules across Europe. The Premier League will once again take a huge financial leap forward with their new TV deal coming next season, with a team like Bournemouth being able to spend more than AC Milan. That’s just ridiculous. If you want a system like the NBA, there’s the obligation to get one TV deal for all European clubs, one fixed amount of foreign players (there is none in England, e.g.), one cap system for player’s wages and so on. Not punishing smaller clubs for great scouting and player development by abolishing transfer fees.
Ending the loan system hurts young players
Talking about wages, the FIFPro also argues that “players, especially young players, need more protection. There must be a better distribution of money to help smaller clubs and we have to reduce the number of loans.” The union even goes as far as to say it wants to end the loan system by limiting squad sizes.
Again, there’s a logical approach to the union’s proposal here. But also once again, this will only hurt smaller clubs and especially young players. A big club like Juventus currently has 60 players out on loan. That is a lot and it doesn’t always makes sense. However, the majority of their loanees are young, talented, and aspiring players who get the chance to develop their game with a smaller club, while that smaller club doesn’t have to pay a transfer fee and also doesn’t have to pay his full salary.
This benefits the players and clubs involved greatly. You can’t blame big clubs for scouting properly and developing young players, meaning ending the loan system would be nothing but ridiculous. It’s even beneficial for a club like Juventus, who were able to land Juan Cuadrado on loan and turn him into a key player and restoring his confidence, while they would have been unable to buy him from Chelsea in the summer of 2015. Even big clubs can diminish the gap with the biggest ones on this planet here.
To conclude, the FIFPro has a case that the current transfer system does not always achieves the goals it was supposed to achieve. Yes, changes are needed. But abolishing transfer fees and ending the loan system are not the ones that will make football more competitive. On the contrary, those changes will only hurt smaller clubs and (young) players.