FIFA to tackle areas of concern

At the 2005 Congress in Marrakech, FIFA created the 'For the Good of the Game' Task Force in an attempt to solve the problems currently affecting football. Principles were adopted by its members, who for the first time were drawn from all areas of the sport: players, clubs, leagues, federations and confederations. It was originally made up of three sections - finance, political and competitions - which gave way to a Strategic Committee, approved at the 2007 FIFA Congress and whose aims were to put the designated principles into action.

In October 2007, nine crucial subjects were discussed and approved by the Executive Committee of football's world governing body. The aim was to implement or reinforce the relevant rules regarding some of the fundamental issues in the modern game: an electronic transfer recording system, third-party influence on clubs, an advance warning system to combat illegal betting, the new rule regarding players' agents, protecting the promotion and relegation system for clubs, implementing an electoral code for national associations, creating tribunals to resolve disputes in each country, an international club licensing system and a standard agreement on collaboration.

"FIFA has decided to take action in order to protect the unpredictability of sporting results and the integrity of competition which have been under threat recently within football," said FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter at the time. "The Strategic Committee demonstrated right from its first meeting in October that it would tackle these problems head on.

"From the beginning of 2008, you will see in real terms the applications of the measures taken by the Committee. The various measures all have the same objective - to promote and protect football,"

Here, outlines the decisions taken by the Executive Committee, the objectives of those measures which came into force on 1 January 2008 and the expected dates on which they will be implemented, as well as giving actual examples of what they should help avoid in the future.

The electronic transfer recording system

  • Concept: Transfers are currently made by fax between the national associations of the clubs involved. The new system will be on the Internet, providing clubs with the kind of modern electronic technology required to keep pace with the volume of transfers in today's market. The system will include bank transfers to be carried out strictly between the clubs involved. Moreover, it allows for crucial data to be recorded which will enable the validity of the transactions to be checked.
  • Objective: The advantages are twofold: it facilitates transfers and shows where the money is coming from and going to, with the aim of making transfers more transparent.
  • Application: 30 pilot countries were selected and began the implementation of the system on 1 January 2008.
  • Example: FIFA received no fewer than 25,000 international transfer certificates in 2006, with numerous irregularities in this batch. Henceforth, these will be detected by the electronic system which will provide the relevant authorities with any proof they need in the event of legal action.

Third-party influence on clubs

  • Concept: Certain third parties intervene in transfers since they "own" all or part of a player's rights. Under the new ruling, the club will not be able to authorise a third party to enter into transfer or employment contracts, meaning they will not be able to have an influence on the independence, rules or performances of the teams of the club in question.
  • Objective: To simplify contractual relationships between the players, agents and clubs involved which are by their very nature already highly complex.
  • Application: This article has already been integrated into the new Ruling on the Status and Transfer of Players as article 18a.
  • Example: A businessman claiming to have the rights to a player has negotiated the latter's transfer to a new club without involving the player's former club in the negotiations. The club therefore opposes the transfer and the legal ramifications mean that the case goes to a sporting arbitration tribunal. This is a situation which FIFA is looking to avoid from now on thanks to this clarification of the Ruling on the Status and Transfer of Players.

Advance warning system to combat illegal betting

  • Concept: This is a monitoring system which will highlight any irregularities which occur in betting on football at a sufficiently early stage, giving FIFA advance warning of any possible influence on matches. The preventative alert system was tested during the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. The FIFA Congress decided at the end of May 2007 to institutionalise the system and the monitoring of gambling activities involving qualifying matches for South Africa 2010 and during the tournament itself.
  • Objective: The aim is to avoid illegal bets being taken for matches, which lead to corruption within football designed to bring about unexpected results.
  • Application: The system is already being implemented for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and was particularly effective in terms of dissuading such activities in 2006.
  • Example: In Germany in 2005, a referee was found to have fixed matches that he was betting on and was sentenced for these criminal activities in December 2006. A number of other cases of match-fixing came to light in Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic and most recently in other European leagues. The early warning system will help in the fight against match-fixing.

The new rule regarding players' agents

  • Concept: The ruling on players' agents implemented in 2000 needed to be adapted to the way football is currently evolving. The new features include licences for players' agents being renewable as opposed to having lifetime validity, with the aim of making sure that agents are up to date with the rulings that are in force. Disciplinary measures against agents with dishonest intentions have also been significantly strengthened, and players will also have to pay their agents themselves in order to increase the transparency of the various transactions. In concrete terms, agents will receive payment exclusively from the client who engaged them.
  • Objective: While FIFA cannot have complete control over agents' activities, since players can choose close relatives or lawyers as their agents, the governing body needs to be stricter to avoid the rules being flouted and to reinforce agents' obligations, as was requested by the European Union.
  • Application: The new ruling was implemented on 1 January 2008.
  • Example: A player, assisted by his agent, signs a contract with a club offering him an annual salary of one million euros. After two seasons, the agent tells the player that another club is ready to pay him two million. The player breaks his contract to sign for the new club. The original club appeals to the industrial tribunal, which suspends the player for breaking his contract, while the Committee for the Status of Players suspends and punishes the agent.

Protecting the promotion and relegation system for clubs

  • Concept: Results on the pitch decide whether a club goes up or down a level in every championship around the world except in the United States and Australia, where there are "closed" leagues. Recently it has been possible to achieve promotion artificially by buying or moving a club. FIFA wishes to make sure that this cannot happen again.
  • Objective: To protect the traditional promotion and relegation system for clubs based purely on sporting criteria - which is the very essence of football.
  • Application: The decision was taken at the FIFA Executive Committee meeting on 15 December in Tokyo. The article will now be submitted to the Congress next May for approval and implementation as a "new article" within the rules governing the application of the Statutes.
  • Example: In Spain, the president of fourth division club Granada bought second-flight Murcia then moved the club near to Granada, allowing Granada 74 to move up artificially into the second tier.

Implementing an electoral code for national associations

  • Concept: National associations are the basis of FIFA, and it is important that those who represent them should be elected in a fully transparent manner, without governmental interference in the country and according to the rules which apply to all elections. A standard electoral code was therefore necessary.
  • Objective: To try to ensure that those who take office at each association are elected with full impartiality and to limit any irregularities during elections. Nevertheless, a number of countries who are already in the habit of holding democratic elections will not have to make any alterations to their systems, provided that they respect the main standards required for elections.
  • Application: The electoral code was approved by the Executive Committee in October 2007 and has already been available since 1 January 2008. It is now the responsibility of each association to implement it at all forthcoming elections.
  • Example: In recent years, FIFA has had to intervene in elections being held by federations in such countries as Azerbaijan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Iran, Oman, Peru, Tajikistan, Togo, Turkmenistan and Yemen, after interference from governmental institutions in the various countries became evident.

Creating tribunals to resolve disputes in each country

  • Concept: The Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC), which was set up in Zurich in 2001, operates on the basis of parity between players and clubs and has enabled a number of disputes to be settled between those two parties. The success of the body has been such that FIFA has decided to set up similar chambers within every national association and signed an agreement with FIFpro to this effect in 2006.
  • Objective: To remove some of the burden from the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber and to enable all players and clubs from all associations to be represented and defended in the event of conflict, which is not necessarily the case at the moment.
  • Application: In January 2008, the first DRCs were set up in 12 pilot countries, with the concept set to be extended to all member associations.
  • Implementation: In January 2008, 15 'pilot' countries were selected to implement the first National Resolution chambers before the principle is extended to all of the members associations.
  • Example: Some 900 cases were submitted to the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber in 2007 and, while it is difficult to give an accurate estimate, the national chambers should be in a position to take on the numerous conflicts between clubs and players over working contracts.

International club licensing system

  • Concept: The idea is to guarantee the integrity of competitions, which can be undermined by dramatic shifts in the amount of capital of unclear origins available to individual clubs.
  • Objective: To better get to know club owners and shareholders, so as to be in a position to control the financial instabilities that can affect clubs adversely.
  • Application: As UEFA have enjoyed a positive experience in this area, FIFA wishes to implement the system of licensing at the global level, in collaboration with national associations and confederations, and starting with Asia in the first half of 2008.
  • Example: In 2004, a businessman invested huge sums into a South American club and reinforced the playing staff in spectacular fashion. The money invested was of suspect origins and the investment quickly stopped. Three years later, the club was relegated to the division below.

Standard agreement on collaboration

  • Concept: Football can only develop through healthy collaboration and mutual respect between national associations and the public bodies charged with a responsibility towards sport. FIFA intends to formalise these relations.
  • Objective: To provide member associations with a standard agreement defining each party's rights and responsibilities based on mutual respect for respective areas of competence.
  • Application: The document already exists, so it is left to the national associations to provide the governmental bodies in their country with a copy if the need exists.
  • Example: In one African country, the appointment of a national coach lasted several months and ultimately failed to take place, the national team's budget being very unclear as a result of complex relations between the national association and the Minister for Sport.

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