No place for third-party ownership

In his UEFA•direct column, UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino underlines the European governing body's stance against third-party ownership in football.

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino
UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino ©UEFA.com

As well as organising and developing elite club competitions in Europe, UEFA has been proactive in implementing good governance principles in our sport, to protect its long-term future.

Recently, we were alerted to the threat of so-called third-party player ownership, and we immediately put this on the table of the Professional Football Strategy Council. We strongly believe that a strict approach is needed on this matter for a number of reasons.

Why is third-party player ownership an issue for football?

Firstly, it raises ethical and moral questions. Is it appropriate for a third party to own the economic rights to another human being and then to trade this 'asset'? This would be unacceptable in society and has no place in football. Footballers (like everyone else) should have the right to determine their own future.

Secondly, we must protect the integrity of sporting competition. What happens when the same corporation or fund owns the economic rights to many players in different teams? There is an obvious risk of conflicts of interest. The danger of results being manipulated is something that UEFA must guard against, now more than ever.

Thirdly, the business model of those involved in third-party player ownership is predicated on players changing clubs frequently. Put bluntly, more transfers means more money for such owners, resulting in contractual instability and long-term revenue being lost from the sport.

Fourthly, this practice is plainly inconsistent with the economic and sporting philosophy of financial fair play, which is to ensure that clubs live within their means. Clubs should not rely on investments from third parties to acquire players that they cannot afford in the first place. In the long term, this is not good for the club or the player. Quick-fix, short-term solutions conflict with the rules and principles of financial fair play.

The Professional Football Strategy Council has considered this issue and has recently received the unequivocal support of the UEFA Executive Committee, demanding that the activity be prohibited as a matter of principle. Such a prohibition already exists in some European countries, and it is time to introduce it across the board.

We have analysed the situation in Europe. However, the issue goes beyond our continent. Since third-party player ownership appears to be a global phenomenon, and given that FIFA is responsible for the operation of the international player transfer system, we have asked the world body to take the necessary steps to introduce a global prohibition.

Following a meeting of its Football Committee, FIFA has commissioned a study to address this issue. However, unless the necessary steps are taken, UEFA will, together with the Professional Football Strategy Council, be ready to implement appropriate rules to phase out this activity in our competitions.

We understand that an adjustment period may be needed, and UEFA would be in favour of transitional measures. Nevertheless, we are firmly of the view that third-party player ownership has no place in football, and our priority remains to protect our sport and to build and maintain its long-term stability.

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