Overhaul football transfer system, commission says
By Benjamin Fox
New rules are needed to curb the excesses of football's multi-billion-euro player transfer market according to a study published Thursday (7 February) on behalf of the European Commission.
The report's main recommendations are a limit on the number of players registered with a club and a cap on transfer fees for players who have signed contract extensions.
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Under the proposal, the transfer fee would be capped at 70 percent of the salary owed by the club to the player for the remainder of his contract.
It also proposes the introduction of a “fair play levy” of 8 percent of every transfer fee, in a bid to redistribute money from wealthy to poorer clubs and encourage competition.
"The economic and legal aspects of the transfer of players" is the work of Brussels-based consultancy KEA and the University of Limoges in France.
The commission says that just 2 percent of transfer monies reach small and amateur football clubs and that reforms are needed to close the gap between sporting have's and have nots.
It is also keen to increase transparency at a time when the role of player agents is under increasing scrutiny. With that in mind, it states that Europe's top clubs should publish online annual reports detailing all their transfer dealings with players and agents.
It also wants to harmonise the conditions of entry for young players from third countries into the EU to prevent human trafficking.
Football club spending among the richest teams has been unaffected by the financial crisis, with total spending on player transfers in Europe rising from €1.95 billion in 2005-6 to €3 billion over the course of the 2010-11 season.
However, despite lucrative television and sponsorship deals, studies have indicated total debt levels exceeding €7 billion across Europe's top football leagues, with the continents most successful clubs, including Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid, among those facing the largest debt mountains.
The latest study by auditors Deloitte found that the 20 clubs in the English Premier League had debts totalling €3 billion. The 20 clubs in La Liga in Spain have debts estimated at €3.5 billion, with 22 of the country's 42 clubs in the top two divisions having been placed in administration over the past two years.
EU sport commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said the "rules as they are do not ensure a fair balance in football or anything approaching a level playing field in league or cup competitions."
"We need a transfer system which contributes to the development of all clubs and young players," she added.
Article 165 of the Lisbon Treaty gave the EU a formal role in public policy to implement "supporting and supplementing" actions taken at national level or by governing bodies.
This has seen the bloc allocate €34 million to the sporting chapter of the "Erasmus for all" scheme.
However, the EU has no power to directly legislate on sport and the treaty states that it must recognise the "specific nature of sport, its structures based on voluntary activity and its social and educational function." Football's governing bodies are also keen to keep the EU at arm's length.
The report will go before the next meeting of the EU's expert group on sports governance in April.
The group, which brings together representatives from governing bodies, the clubs and players, will then prepare a report to EU sports ministers before the end of 2013.