While the January 2011 transfer window counted down news of big money transfers or stories of ‘the one that got away’, the period of 31 days was followed with a blend of a fans’ excitement and a professional’s close scrutiny, in a Zurich office.
Mark Goddard, the General Manager of the FIFA Transfer Matching System GmbH, and his team have spent the last three years delivering a comprehensive education programme. Visiting associations and football clubs throughout the world, the mission was to explain the workings of FIFA’s new internet-based system aimed at making international transfers more transparent, as well as protecting minor players.
On 1 October 2010, the use of TMS became mandatory for all international transfers of professional players. With a clock in the system counting down the minutes to the moment a transfer window closes, clubs were in no doubt in 2011 that they had to close the deal in time or risk the transfer not going through.
One such transfer that just made the deadline was that of defender David Luiz, whose move from Portugal’s Benfica to Chelsea in England slipped in with two minutes to spare. Luiz’s move was just one of 2,451 international transfers recorded this January, a 104 per cent increase from this time last year, with a combined transfer compensation value of $320m.
More than 4,000 football clubs are now using the FIFA Transfer Matching System, with both buying and selling clubs having to ‘match’ a range of different data in order for the release of an International Transfer Certificate to be approved (see 'The TMS explained' to the right for more details).
The Integrity and Compliance Unit of the FIFA TMS closely monitors all of the transfers taking place, and while in previous year’s stories of late transfers were commonplace, FIFA’s rules are now much easier to enforce.
With an online system, all information regarding a transfer is available for analysis and review. Between 60 and 70 transfers from last month’s window are currently being reviewed by the FIFA Players’ Status Department. All the entered information is cross-checked in order to ascertain why an individual transfer was not completed before the applicable deadline. Until that process is complete, the player involved in the transfer is unable to play for the new club.
“At the peak of the window there were 115 Member Associations who were open for business”, said Mark Goddard. “In basic terms, that means that more than half the football planet was using our system, and we’re very pleased that we had no operational issues, whilst our Client Services team were able to provide support and guidance with almost 1,300 queries.
“The implementation of the system is a big step-change in the way that international football transfers are conducted, and we won’t be resting on our laurels. Next month we will start another series of workshops and visits to gain feedback from FIFA’s member associations to see if we can improve things further.
“As a football fan following the endless transfer speculation, it can seem that a club is in negotiations for a player constantly throughout the window. The reality, however, is that once the two clubs agree on all the details, the actual processing of the transfer online in the TMS can take as little as 20 to 40 minutes.”