FIFA faces losing control of transfer markets as lawyer crisis reaches tipping point

May 30 – With FIFA struggling to convince its lawyers to move from Zurich to Miami – less than 25 out of 120 are reportedly crossing the Atlantic – an even bigger problem is threatening FIFA’s legal credibility with the Summer transfer window that opens June 14.

In 2023 FIFA reported that $9.63 billion was spent on transfer fees, a 43% increase on 2022. The year saw FIFA handle 23,689 professional player transfers and more than 74,000 transfers in total.

The transfers and due diligence around them is handled by lawyers in FIFA’s Players’ Status Department who deal with transfer and employment-related disputes.

Currently only five lawyers from that department are moving to Miami, and one of them is changing job to become FIFA’s new Head of Disciplinary.

That leaves just four lawyers to carry out the work of an already over-stretched department of 60 lawyers, threatening to bring the whole FIFA transfer system to a standstill, and potentially total collapse.

If FIFA loses control of the transfer system then not only does it rise questions over whether is fit for purpose as a governing body in terms of oversight of such a huge volume of transfers and money, but it also opens the transfer market to financial and moral abuse.

On its website FIFA says the main objectives of the FCH are to centralise, process and automate payments between clubs, initially relating to training rewards (training compensation and solidarity contribution); and promote financial transparency and integrity, and avoid fraudulent conduct in the transfer system.

With no lawyers to police the system, the potential for disaster and foul play multiplies exponentially.

One senior lawyer with FIFA experience told Insideworldfootball: “FIFA may lose control over the transfers in general. Maybe stronger confederations like UEFA can jump in and fill in the vacuum caused by this move. You may recall that back in 2000 these were actually the plans of UEFA with Gerhard Aigner, Gianni Infantino and Alasdair Bell. History may therefore repeat itself.”

Fast recruiting new lawyers to fill desks in the Miami office is not going to solve the problem, according to lawyers who rely on the system and FIFA’s lawyer to complete transfers.

To begin with top US legal talent are unlikely to switch to the significantly lower salaried positions FIFA is offering.

More problematic is likely to be the timescales with the education process for a new lawyer in the Clearing House system and the football transfer reckoned to take at least six months before that lawyer can work independently.

For FIFA it is already too late to backtrack and salvage what they have as the current staff are either gone already or will be gone in few weeks.

Such is the animosity, frustration and ill-feeling towards FIFA’s executive felt by departing lawyers, the governing body has to scramble hard to rebuild its Players’ Status Department or find a creative solution.

As one lawyer told Insideworldfootball, “besides the (lost) knowhow also historical memory will be lost. There is nothing worse than an association without memory…”

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