ZURICH (Reuters) - The world players’ union FIFPro has agreed to withdraw its legal challenge to the transfer system at the European Commission after reaching an agreement with global soccer body FIFA to overhaul it.
In a joint statement on Monday, the two organisations said FIFA had agreed to set up a task force to look at sweeping changes to the transfer regulations in the long term and, in the short term, to make it easier for players to leave their clubs if they are not paid on time.
The system has been under scrutiny because of the spiralling fees paid for big-name players, such as Brazilian forward Neymar’s record-shattering 222 million euro ($257.4 million) move from Barcelona to Paris St Germain earlier this year.
There are also concerns that it has contributed to the growing dominance of a handful of select clubs.
FIFPro president Philippe Piat said the agreement would “set in motion the biggest changes to football transfer rules since 2001.”
“While clubs in the richest leagues invariably treat players well, there are other leagues in which the employment rights of players are routinely ignored,” he said.
The issues which the task force could examine include limiting transfer fees and increasing competitive balance as well as the role of agents, transfer windows, the loan system and squad sizes.
The statement said the “health and safety” of the players would be addressed, particularly regarding the international calendar.
FIFPro lodged its legal complaint at the European Commission in 2015, saying the transfer system was anti-competitive, unjustified and illegal.
If successful, the complaint could have caused the biggest upheaval to the sport since the Bosman ruling in 1995, which paved the way for players in the European Union to move to another club at the end of a contract without a transfer fee being paid.
FIFA administers international transfer regulations through its Rules on the Status and Transfer of Players (REST) which have existed in their current form since 2001.
The immediate changes to the rules will allow players to leave their clubs if they have not been paid for two months or if they are subject to abusive behaviour, such as being forced to train alone.
FIFPro says that until now, clubs have been able to drag the process out for up to two years by taking the case to FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said the agreement was “an important milestone in the improvement of the global governance of professional football.”
“These were complicated negotiations with the game’s key stakeholders and each one has made some compromises but... this agreement is beneficial for all and the ultimate winner is football,” he said.
($1 = 0.8626 euros)
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge