Major focus on minors
© AFP

Football clubs in more than 100 countries have till the end of August to finalise their squads for the coming season before the transfer window shuts.

The recent FIFA U-17 World Cup in Mexico brought some talented new players to the attention of fans, clubs and media alike and inevitably since then, some of the ‘stars’ of that tournament have been linked with big money transfers.

Any player under the age of 18 is classified by FIFA as a ‘minor’ and the transfer of minors has been a major concern for FIFA for over a decade. Football, with its potential for prestige and comparable riches has unfortunately witnessed a number of cases of ‘unscrupulous’ behaviour.

As a consequence, FIFA has sought to continually ‘tighten’ its regulations. Now, for any club hoping to register a minor in the current or future transfer windows, a rigorous and systematic review process is in place.

FIFA’s computer based Transfer Matching System (TMS) (click on the right for more information) became mandatory for international transfers of professional players from 1 October 2010. Already since 1 October 2009 TMS manages the application for every first registration of a non-national minor, as well as all international transfers that need the approval of FIFA. Depending on the individual details of a case, the respective football association is then mandated to submit specific documents.

These documents (for example, a proof of residence for both the player and players’ parents) and documentation of academic education and football training are then assessed by the Sub-Committee of the FIFA Players’ Status Committee, to determine whether an exception is proven or not.

Mark Goddard, General Manager of FIFA TMS told FIFA.com: “We embarked on a year-long extensive global education programme with all Member Associations, and currently we have over 4,600 football clubs registered and using the system.

“If Associations do not upload the correct documentation, this means the process takes that much longer, and increases the possibility that, in the case of a transfer, a club may well miss the deadline.”

I am delighted to see that all parties involved have realised the benefit, thereby jointly fighting alongside FIFA for transparency in the transfer system.
Marco Villiger, FIFA's Legal Director

Since its mandatory introduction, 1,992 applications for minors have been uploaded into the TMS. Of those, 331 have been rejected. The same procedure applies to boys, girls, professional players and amateurs, ensuring that FIFA provides all minors with the same level of protection.

Once it is uploaded into the TMS, the respective Associations are required to verify all the documentation. The Player Status sub-committee will then review the application. Only once the application has been approved may the minor player be registered or his clearance requested (through TMS if the player is a professional male player).

With a series of checks and balances now in place, a previously regulated but relatively unmonitored marketplace has had to change and adapt. But can the system be ‘circumvented’, and have these processes had a measurable impact?

“There is now a rigorous system in place to monitor the movement of minors that are declared in TMS by associations” continued Goddard. “The key now is to be able to identify those minors that are transferred outside of TMS, circumventing the regulations. The Integrity and Compliance team at FIFA TMS is currently working on data monitoring methods, including the exchange of data with external partners, in order to track this phenomenon, and extend the protection of vulnerable young players.”

Reflecting on the progress made over the last decade, the final word goes to FIFA’s Legal Director Marco Villiger. “FIFA has taken a big step forward with the implementation of TMS and with the web-based system we are able to ensure FIFA’s Regulations are respected.

“I am delighted to see that all parties involved have realised the benefit, thereby jointly fighting alongside FIFA for transparency in the transfer system. After its successful introduction, we will continue with the provision of education and training, and increasingly seek to sanction those who do not respect FIFA’s regulations”.

*For a timeline concerning FIFA’s protection of minors, please click on the link to the right.