ZURICH (Reuters) - Soccer’s governing body FIFA has agreed to ban the third-party ownership (TPO) of players, its president Sepp Blatter said on Friday, seven years after first promising to outlaw the practice.
Blatter said a working group would be set up to implement the ban which would come into effect following “a transitional period”.
“We took a firm decision that TPO should be banned but it cannot be banned immediately there will be a transitional period,” Blatter told a news conference following a meeting of the executive committee.
The World Players Association FIFPro said they were “delighted” with the decision but were still waiting for details of its implementation.
Blatter’s announcement followed pressure from European soccer’s governing body UEFA, which had said it would ban TPO unilaterally if FIFA did not act.
TPO is when the transfer rights of players are wholly or partially owned by the footballer himself or a company, instead of just the player’s club.
It is widespread in Brazil and Argentina, and is also present in some European countries such as Portugal, but banned in others including England, France and Poland.
FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said the working group would decide how long the transitional period would be and would submit a proposal to the next executive committee meeting in December.
“The ban cannot be implemented immediately and we are discussing the number of transfer windows we have to wait for this ban (to come into affect).
“It’s a matter of whether we are talking about six transfer windows, meaning three years, or eight, meaning four years, this is what we will be discussing in this working group,” he said.
Earlier this month, Sporting Lisbon president Bruno de Carvalho launched an outspoken attack on investor funds who buy players’ economic rights, describing them as a “menace” and a “monster” that undermine clubs’ finances and football’s integrity.
Blatter previously said in October 2007 that the practice would be banned but FIFA failed to follow up on the promise.
UEFA president Michel Platini has been one of the most outspoken critics of TPO.
“I have been constantly warning for years that this practice, which is becoming increasingly widespread, is a danger to our sport,” he said in March.
“It threatens the integrity of our competitions, damages football’s image, poses a long-term threat to clubs’ finances and even raises questions about human dignity.
“Increasingly, players are owned by opaque companies based in tax havens and controlled by some unknown agent or investment fund.”
FIFPro general-secretary Theo van Seggelen said that TPO was the result of failures in the transfer system.
“FIFPro is delighted that after months of intense negotiations...that FIFA have finally heard our call to ban TPO,” said Van Seggelen in a statement.
“Although the agreement is the first step towards achieving our goal, we now await with interest the details of implementation,” he added. “While there must be a transitional period for the ban to take effect it must be implemented as soon as possible.
“A ban must also ensure that no similar practice is allowed to appear in any way, shape or form, that all loopholes are closed and that the transition process has to start immediately,” he said.
“The damage to football is so great that every day without the prohibition of third party ownership is a day lost...
“It is an urgent priority and we strongly urge FIFA that by the end of the year we need to see very clear measures on how to make the transitional period as short as possible.
“FIFPro reiterates that the emergence of TPO has only been possible because of the fundamental abuse of the player transfer system.”
Editing by Justin Palmer and Toby Davis