You’d think opponents of Financial Fair Play (FFP), like this writer, would be rejoicing that another case has been filed against those in charge of the game regarding competition law and the freedom of movement for people. But there’s a catch. FIFPro’s intention is to completely remove the transfer system as we know it. They aim for a Bosman-style revolution to remove restraints set upon players they say are no different today than those before the 1995 case.
Anti-FFP people have long since argued that in any other business a company can spend in order to catch its competitors. If Nokia decided it wanted to be the new Apple it would have to operate at a loss for many years while they went through an accelerated growth period. To have an exterior committee prevent this would ensure Apple and Microsoft would have an eternal monopoly over tech companies.
Those facing-off against FFP also argue the threat of removing or hindering teams’ entry into competitions, like the Champions League, removes that players ability to ply his trade and restricts his earnings. Bonuses are tied to performances in individual cups. If a player signs for Manchester City, expecting Champions League football, but they are subsequently banned, he has lost money. They are restricting his ability to ply his trade.
[ffc-gal cat=”manchester-city” no=”5″]
This is where FIFPro’s case and the existing one crossover but it’s bad news for the clubs that have acquired their assets. FIFAPro argue that having a player tied to a contract, that can only be bought out by over-inflated market prices, makes him a prisoner. That running down a contract to activate a Bosman is still against laws that exist for everyone else in the EU.
In 2001 the EU did give FIFA and UEFA and informal deal making them exempt from competition law. When this has been challenged players have been made to pay their existing club a compensation fee, which in effect is no different from a transfer fee.
The latest proposal sounds fair from a player’s point of view and it has strong legal grounding, arguably more than the current FFP case against UEFA. It’s when FIFPro expand on their intentions and reasons for pursuing a case – a necessity because the European Commission doesn’t have to answer the case if they think it’s weak – holes begin to form.
Much like anti-FFP fights against football enduring a status quo, FIFPro argue the transfer system prevents money filtering to all areas of the game. They believe money is passed around at the top. Everything they have to say about player freedom falls down with this incorrect foundation. If transfer fees are removed the lower leagues or those operating with strict wage structures will suffer more than those at the top. Their best young talent will be harvested without compensation.
Without the economics of a transfer market a large portion of all revenue will remain at clubs like Manchester City. It will not open up a free-world but remove one area of open competition. The rich clubs will have bigger bartering tools when it comes to wages. At the same time the instability of free player movements will make clubs less inclined to invest long term. If their top talent can give a notice, like you or I, then a chairman will be less able to accommodate loan deals to lower leagues which provide a basis for many poorer squads.
There’s a proven link between big club success and small club survival. The worse a club does, the lower their revenue hence less spent on wages, reduction in quality, sporting imbalance and back to worsening results. The big club also hits an imbalance in sporting competition and requires its increased revenues to be offset with the purchase of fresh talent.
The Bosman case was revolutionary at the time but in hindsight it was just applying common sense. If a contract is up then a person should be free to walk. Using common sense it is highly unlikely The Commission will consider scrapping transfer fees. Removing the transfer system doesn’t open up the market and make all players available; it just ensures the big clubs have easier pickings.