By Andrea Basso MRGL Advogados, Lisbon, Portugal
The Global Transfer Market Report 2017
records that, in 2016, the number of international transfers of football players was 14,591 with a total spending on transfer fees of USD 4.79 billion. The FIFA Transfer Matching System (the FIFA TMS) played a crucial role in processing every single one of these transfers; and the purpose of this post is to shine some light on this seldom-discussed system.
The FIFA TMS is a secure, online, real-time technology system that was fully implemented in 2010, when it became mandatory for all FIFA member associations' clubs engaging in international transfers of male professional football players. The main objective of the FIFA TMS adoption was to increase integrity and transparency in the professional football transfer market.
The FIFA TMS legal framework is contained in Annex 3 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP). Annex 3 of the RSTP also recognises the delegated authority given to the FIFA TMS by the FIFA Disciplinary Committee to investigate and gather evidence on stakeholders that are not compliant with the rules governing the international transfer market.
Prior to the introduction of the FIFA TMS, a transfer could take days or even weeks to process. In 2015, conversely, the average processing time for an international transfer was under seventeen minutes! Before the launch of the FIFA TMS, international transfers could have taken, as mentioned, weeks to complete; and, moreover, given the international dimension of these transfers, the language differences and the potential involvement of a third-party, the transfers could have been susceptible to not only simple errors, but also to potential money laundering issues. With the FIFA TMS, transfers can take minutes to process and all of the financial and third-party information is logged into the online system and completely transparent.
The FIFA TMS processing system of international transfers involves multiple clubs; federations; the player (and sometimes multiple players); and FIFA. In order for a player to be eligible to play for his new club, an International Transfer Certificate (ITC) must be issued by the federation in the country of the player’s former club to the federation in the country of the player’s new club.
For this process to be smoothly completed, each club involved in the transfer must submit through the FIFA TMS data regarding mainly the players, payments and contracts. Much of this data that each club submits through the FIFA TMS must match up exactly; and, if the buying and selling clubs are not in sync in entering in the key data points, the transfer will not be processed.
To ensure that this system is operated by capable people and runs smoothly, every club is required to designate employees as ‘TMS managers’, who are responsible for ensuring that transfers are processed correctly.
There are two types of investigations that the FIFA TMS can conduct in accordance with the RSTP: the Administrative Sanction Procedure (ASP); and the Traditional Case File (TCF).
An ASP is conducted by the FIFA TMS and is generally reserved for relatively minor infringements
. The recommended sanctions consist of a warning; a reprimand; and/or a fine of up to CHF 14,000.
The TCF is an inquiry into any form of alleged wrongdoing relating to an international transfer outside the explicitly-specified ASP infringements. For instance, cases relating to third-party influence and ownership in international transfers will be TCFs, rather than ASPs. Other examples of TCFs are the recent Spanish cases concerning FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, sanctioned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after violating the RSTP provisions pertaining to minor football players. It was the FIFA TMS that investigated and initiated these files.
Thus, the FIFA TMS seems to be working, as it was intended, as an effective and efficient compliance procedure in relation to the international transfer of football players.