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FIFA transfer rules may be in breach of EU law
(Pic: Shutterstock)

30 Apr 2024 / sports law Print

FIFA transfer rules may be in breach of EU law

A legal adviser to the EU’s highest court has found that some of the rules of player transfers applied by football’s world governing body FIFA may be contrary to EU law.

Advocate General Maciej Szpunar was addressing questions referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) by a Belgian court.

The case involving an unnamed player who had sued FIFA and Belgian football’s governing body over the rules.

FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) apply to a situation where there is a dispute between a professional footballer and a club on the termination of a contract without just cause.

In such cases, that player, and any club wishing to employ him, are jointly and severally liable for any compensation due to his former club.

The player and the new club are also liable to sporting and financial sanctions in case of non-compliance.

Deal ‘fell through’

In addition, the association to which the player’s former club belongs may refuse to deliver an International Transfer Certificate to the association where the player’s new club is registered, if the dispute with the former club is ongoing.

In this case, the player had signed for the Russian football club Lokomotiv Moscow, only to see that contract terminated by this club one year later for an alleged breach “and termination of contract without just cause”.

The player claims that a potential deal with a Belgian club fell through because of the RSTP conditions and sued for damages and loss of earnings of €6 million.

‘Restrictive nature’

Advocate General Szpunar said today (30 April) that the CJEU should find that the FIFA rules “may prove to be contrary to the European rules on competition and freedom of movement of persons”.

He also found that there could be “no doubt” as to the restrictive nature of the RSTP on freedom of movement.

Szpunar also said that the RSTP, by limiting clubs’ ability to recruit players, “necessarily affect competition between clubs on the market for the acquisition of professional players”.

He added, however, that such restrictions on competition could be justified “if they are proven to be necessary for the pursuit of one or more objectives that are legitimate and strictly necessary for that purpose”.

The advocate general also stated that the rules’ impact on freedom of movement could also be justified if there were “effective, genuine and expeditious” provisional measures in place in cases where the termination of contract was the result of a “mere allegation” against a player.

The CJEU will make its final ruling later.

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