FIFA transfer reforms target an end to player ‘hoarding’ and mega-pay days for agents

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By Andrew Warshaw

February 28 – In a transfer reform that will be widely welcomed across many sectors of the game, FIFA is set to limit the number of international loan deals from next season and curb the amount agents can be paid.

In a statement, FIFA said it had taken “a series of key steps to protect the integrity of the system and prevent abuses” following a meeting of its Stakeholders Committee.

From next season, non-domestic loans among players aged 22 and over will be limited to eight out and eight in, with that figure dropping progressively to six by the 2022/23 season. The number of players that can be loaned between the same two clubs will be capped at three.

Individual leagues would be given a period of three years to implement similar rules for domestic loan deals though there is nothing to force them to do so.

Many leagues already have strict loan criteria. In the Premier League, for instance,  clubs may not register more than two players on loan at any one time and can only register four loans in total in a single season. But if approved, the FIFA stakeholders committee proposal will put a much-needed ceiling on the practice throughout the professional game.

The proposals are subject to the approval of FIFA’s players’ status committee and the full FIFA Council and should in theory provide for a more regulated system as well as much-needed greater emphasis on home-grown talent. The new regulations, FIFA said, are intended to “ensure that (loans) have a valid sporting purpose for youth development”.

One of the reasons for the move is stop the unsavoury practise of hoarding players which has become one of the game’s most unfair and destabilising devices.

“Players’ development is suffering as they are moved from one club to another with no clear career plan. The current loan system has facilitated player hoarding with clubs putting numerous players on their books and then loaning them out to other clubs,” FIFA said in a document quoted by AFP.

Among the clubs who will take note are Chelsea and Monaco. Chelsea have been guilty of loaning out vast numbers of players while Monaco currently have as many as 18 at other clubs.

The influential stakeholders committee also proposed the introduction of a one per cent levy on all transfer fees to support a fund to compensate clubs who develop players through their youth academies.

Smaller clubs have long complained they are not sufficiently rewarded when players they develop leave at a young age and are later  involved in big-money moves. Many of world football’s big-name stars start off at unheralded clubs and this is what FIFA wants to address.

FIFA says the system up until now has not worked properly especially in Latin America and Africa.

“This modernised system will encourage and reward the training efforts of clubs and, as payments will be automated via the new FIFA Clearing House, it will ensure that training compensation is actually paid, which is often currently not the case,” said FIFA.

Agents are also set to be hit in the pocket in a move to make transfers more transparent. The FIFA stakeholders committee proposed limiting commissions since “conflicts of interest plague football’s transfer system”.

Under the latest recommendations a selling club will not have to pay more than 10% of a transfer fee received to an agent acting on their behalf. Agents representing a player will be entitled to a maximum of three percent of that player’s total remuneration and another three percent for representing the buying club.

The staging of domestic matches overseas is also set to be outlawed, potentially scuppering La Liga’s hopes of taking top-flight games to the United States.

The Spanish league has signed a 15-year, €200 million agreement with sports and entertainment group Relevent  to play one regular season Spanish league game per season in the US but has twice been denied the chance to do so.

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