EC sticks to its hard line on transfer system

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The Independent Online

An English delegation returned from a meeting with European Commission members in Strasbourg yesterday with hopes fading that the current transfer system can be saved.

An English delegation returned from a meeting with European Commission members in Strasbourg yesterday with hopes fading that the current transfer system can be saved.

The Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, the Professional Footballers' Association chairman Barry Horne and the Leeds United spokesman, David Walker, all gave reasons why the current methods should be kept. But they were told categorically that the EC is sticking to its hard line and that the days of the transfer market are over. Now the Task Force, headed by the secretary of the PFA, Gordon Taylor, faces an uphill task to get its proposals accepted.

The only question seems no longer to be if it will survive, but when the system will go. Taylor's Task Force is to ask for a three-year period of grace before any possible change. The Task Force is to propose a compensation system and the introduction of contracts lasting a maximum of four years. But a player would have the "right" to give notice and leave within 12 months of that date to the club of his choice.

The only way around the European Union's rigorous laws is if football is accorded a special status, removing it from the sphere of the European employment law. But that idea has been dismissed by the Commission, as it could set a precedent.

Even so Uefa, European football's governing body, yesterday received encouragement from the International Olympic Committee president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, who visited Strasbourg to meet Nicole Fontaine, the president of the European Parliament, in an effort to secure a special legal status for sport. Samaranch said he wanted an amendment to the treaty that would recognise sport's "special characteristics, benefits and organisational structures".

The proposed treaty article would call for EU policies to promote sport and would require legislators to recognise the role of sporting bodies like the IOC and football federations when formulating new policies in areas like anti-doping.

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