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Transfers Will End Part 2

By: Todd Bontoft
Date: 20/11/2000

Mario Monti, favours protecting football by the proposal similar to those put forward by Fifpro, the international confederation of players' unions, whose vision for the new age of transfer-free players differs significantly to the games' governing bodies.

Fifpro proposes a radical new transfer system and maintains its proposals address the EC's central demand - that players can break their contract whenever they wish - but maintain the games integrity by ensuring any player will only be allowed to play for a new club once every twelve months.

Such a move will avoid the position that Grimsby Town has faced in the past, and now faces once again, over a number of players whose contracts expire at the end of a season. Last season the club was faced with whether to cut their losses selling Jack Lester at a knock down price during the season or keep him and let him walk away as a free agent. This season the same scenario has reappeared following Portsmouth's reported interest in Peter Handyside.

With a limit of only one club within twelve months, under the Fifpro system, any imminent discussion of Handyside's departure would be academic. Under Fifpro's scheme, yes he would be free to resign from his contract, and yes Portsmouth could 'sign him'. But by being unable to play until the start of the following season it would leave any new club paying his wages for a player fast losing match fitness and of no value until the next season's start. This is hardly a proposition that would appeal to many club chairmen and managers.

The positive aspect of the scheme will be that most clubs and their respective supporters will enjoy the sure knowledge that their squad will remain more or less constant during the season and the 'fans favourite' will not be poached halfway through. The only 'ins and outs' will be players whose contracts have expired or terminated by mutual agreement with their employers. Club chairmen will initially bleat about the rules as the balance sheet takes a 'knock' from the removal of the 'paper asset' of players' values. But it is a logical step on from the Bosman ruling that leaves the current transfer system between a rock and a hard place even without the EC's intervention.

Fifpro's chairman, Gordon Taylor - who is also chief executive of the Professional Football Association - told the Observer, "Instead of wasting time trying to preserve the existing system and enlisting people such as Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder to put political pressure on the EC, Fifa and Uefa should have trained their minds on meeting the EC's objections. They will now have to do that, as Fifpro already has done".

Taylor stressed that Fifpro's proposals meet the EC's objectives while preserving some of the stability in the game, "We don't want to disenchant the supporters, so we're suggesting that players can only move once every year. We hope the EC are satisfied with this."

I firmly believe much of the criticism of the abolition of transfer fees is largely scare mongering, with those at the top having spent tens of millions on players the most to lose. But it is a given that it is a step into a new beginning and it will be incumbent upon football's governing bodies and the EC to get the balance correct in protecting the legitimate rights of players and avoiding a mercenary's paradise.

Todd Bontoft

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