Third-party ownership (TPO) was finally outlawed on 1 May 2015, making it a significant day for UEFA and European football. TPO is bad for players, player development, clubs, the integrity of competition and the financial health of the game.
This subject has been discussed extensively by various UEFA bodies in recent years. For example, in 2012 the Professional Football Strategy Council (consisting of clubs, players, leagues and national associations) adopted a strong stance against TPO. This was followed by a decision adopted by the UEFA Executive Committee in December 2012, at which time UEFA called on FIFA (as the body responsible for policing international transfers) to act, indicating that if FIFA failed to do so then UEFA would itself act against TPO in Europe.
Subsequently, FIFA undertook a number of detailed studies on TPO and set up a working group to examine how the issue should be tackled (a working group in which UEFA participated). Unsurprisingly, the detailed analyses of TPO revealed that the practice was negative for football on just about every front. It contained very little to recommend it, other than as a vehicle for certain third parties to make financial returns from 'speculating' on the future transfer value of players.
UEFA is therefore very pleased that the working group recommended that TPO be banned and that this ban is now being brought into effect.
At the time of writing, the ban on TPO has been challenged both before the European Commission and in a number of national courts. Such legal challenges were predictable. Nevertheless, UEFA (together with FIFPro) has lodged its own complaint with the European Commission, arguing that the practice of TPO was already contrary to European law.
UEFA considers that TPO undermines contractual stability, has a negative effect on employment relationships, distorts the recruitment of players, threatens the integrity of competition, and also raises serious ethical and moral concerns regarding the treatment of players (in particular, young players). We are optimistic that the European Commission will support us in this view.
We can now look forward to a world without TPO. A world in which clubs and players can have more control over their respective futures, where players on opposing teams cannot have their economic rights 'owned' by the same third-party and where more money should remain in the game, rather than being extracted by financial speculators.
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