Fifa fears for small clubs over transfer abolition

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The Independent Online

A report by FIFA, the governing body of world football, into the likely effects of a change to the current transfer regulations has predicted dire consequences for the game.

A report by FIFA, the governing body of world football, into the likely effects of a change to the current transfer regulations has predicted dire consequences for the game.

The report, which is also backed by Uefa, the governing body of the European game, warns that some lower league clubs may have their credit limit severely cut by banks anxious to protect their own interests and that the gap between the richest teams and the rest will widenbecause they will have more money to offer in wages.

The governing bodies' reaction to European Commission concerns that the present system was illegal under employment law enshrined within the Treaty of Rome was delivered to Brussels yesterday.

Although the alternative proposals do not have the backing of the European players' union, FIFPro, Mario Monti, the EC competitions commissioner, will examine them before delivering his verdict. More talks are planned until the end of the year, after which a final conclusion will be reached.

The EC believes that if it carries out its threat to end the spiralling transfer fees, it would make the game more competitive because any individual would have the freedom of choice to move where he wished rather than just to the clubs who could afford him. However, the Fifa report suggests that this is wishful thinking and that the proposals' effects would drive smaller clubs close to extinction.

The central components of the Fifa report include: a desire to end all international transfers for players under 18; a compensation system for the training and development of all players between the ages of 12 and 23; a biannual transfer window; the imposition of a rule which limits any player to one transfer per season; respect for contracts; an arbitration system in case of breach of contract; a transitional period before the new system comes into force.

"The proposals will form the basis of the intended negotiations, which we trust will start as soon as possible," said the Fifa president, Sepp Blatter. "It is our hope that an agreement will be possible by the previously proposed deadline of 31 December. At the same time, the intention is to still continue the dialogue with the players' union, FIFPro."

Blatter had a blazing row with the FIFPro chairman, Gordon Taylor, in Zurich following FIFPro's decision to leave the transfer Task Force before a final solution could be reached. Blatter has been widely criticised for his handling of the issue, culminating in accusations that he was trying to reach an agreement with Taylor without consulting the rest of the Task Force.

This has angered Uefa, who had taken the lead in negotiations after what they saw as complete inaction from the world governing body. But the Uefa chief executive, Gerhard Aigner, maintained an air of unity as he spoke of the desire toreach an agreement with the EC.

"Our proposals have received the overwhelming support of national associations, leagues and clubs and provide a real way forward. We hope that the Commission and European national governments will recognise the common sense behind this document and seek a sensible agreement which safeguards the future of our game and meets the interests of fans."

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