Third-party ownership – a complex topic

FIFA Vice-President Geoff Thompson speaks during the 64th FIFA Congress
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As part of the 64th FIFA Congress agenda, Geoff Thompson, chairman of FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber and member of FIFA’s Players’ Status Committee, today provided the delegates with an update on the topic of third-party ownership of players’ economic rights (TPO) and FIFA’s work on this matter. TPO is a matter which is currently being debated at various levels within the football community, led at international level by FIFA, and which has been an integral part of the work of several FIFA standing committees, such as the Football Committee, the Committee for Club Football and the Players’ Status Committee.

As far as the applicable international regulatory framework is concerned, FIFA’s current approach is to prohibit the influence that third parties could have on clubs as stipulated in art. 18bis of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP).

Within the various standing committees, the discussions have confirmed that there is a need for a broader and more detailed analysis of the different aspects associated with TPO and its impact on global football both from an economic and integrity standpoint. At the same time, the majority of the football stakeholders acknowledge that TPO is a complex topic and further consultations are required in terms of identifying a potential alternative regulatory approach, also considering the lack of a consensus on how to best address this issue.

Considering the complexity of the practice, the limited economic data available and the varied global relevance of TPO depending on the level of professional football, FIFA requested that two studies be carried out with the overall objective of adding to the information available in order to support and contribute to the ongoing discussions within FIFA’s competent bodies as well as in the context of all relevant future work on this matter.

The general update on the topic provided the opportunity for the delegates to receive some information on the main findings of the two studies.

Indeed, some of the key results are:
• The large majority of the 106 member associations that participated in the first study has taken over art. 18bis of the FIFA RSTP without modification or let it apply directly; three associations prohibit TPO; and five associations restrict TPO in the sense that they only allow clubs to hold players’ economic rights, excluding other third parties such as companies or private investors
• The relevance of TPO is highly dependent on the level of professional football, i.e. amateur status of the players or the overall environment not encouraging the development of this practice
• There is a vast heterogeneity among the stakeholders involved, such as players, clubs, players’ agents and investors in general
• Operations are mainly concentrated around a few actors with considerable market power and situations of potential conflicts of interest
• The percentage of transfer compensation accounted to third parties, when third parties are involved, ranges from 10% to 40%
• The overall economic weight of TPO is estimated to amount to USD 360 million per year, which represents 9.7% of the amount of transfer compensation paid in international transfers
• Only three associations have registration systems for the players concerned or the third parties owning players’ economic rights in place

FIFA’s aim and priority is to address this topic on the basis of a sound understanding of all the aspects connected with TPO so that appropriate solutions may be suggested within an inclusive and informed process involving all relevant members of the football community.

To that end, the creation of a dedicated working group under FIFA’s Players’ Status Committee was announced with the aim of analysing all possible regulatory options and making preliminary suggestions to the FIFA Executive Committee next September for the latter to decide on the preferred and most adequate future approach so that the working group may subsequently further elaborate on the technical details.

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