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Negotiations being driven by FIFPro, the World Footballers' Association, to reform football's player transfer system stalled at the first major hurdle last week after representatives of the leagues and the clubs refused to agree to key proposals to protect players who are not paid their wages on time or who have their contracts unjustly terminated.

The talks, being held at FIFA, have been postponed indefinitely. With negotiations at a standstill, FIFPro has called an extraordinary meeting of Division Europe to address this serious matter. Player associations from 29 countries in Europe will assemble tomorrow and Thursday (January 28-29) at the Hilton Hotel in Athens, Greece.

FIFPro Secretary General Theo van Seggelen reiterated that the biggest problem in professional football today is a lack of respect by clubs for their contractual obligations to players.

"Every year, around 4,000 players file cases with FIFA either because their club has not paid them or the club has unjustly terminated the contract. Due to the volume of cases, players have to wait several years for a hearing which, in over 90% of matters, is decided in favour of the player.

"Given the short-term and precarious nature of a player's career, these delays cannot be tolerated. Clubs have now taken to exploiting the delays through tactics such as heavy handedness and vexatious litigation to ensure that compensation payments are avoided or minimised.

"FIFA's caseload does not even take into account the extent of the problem at the national level, as FIFA is only competent to hear cases between players and clubs of different nationalities.

"Basic measures must be urgently introduced to give players stability in their contractual relations with clubs, and to prevent the widespread lack of respect for the contractual rights of players from continuing."

Despite the negotiations having opened in March 2014, the European Clubs' Association (ECA) and the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) failed to accept four key FIFPro proposals designed to ensure contractual stability in professional football:

  • That a player who is unpaid for more than 30 days can elect to terminate his contract if he has given his club at at least 10 days written notice to pay what is owed
  • That if a player contract is terminated by a club without just cause or by the player for non-payment, the player will be entitled to be financially compensated by having the contract paid out by the club
  • That such a player be able to find work without restriction including outside of any transfer window
  • The reforms apply both internationally and domestically.

"These reforms would make the contract of a professional player a two way street," Van Seggelen said.

"The situation can be contrasted to the rights of a club where a player breaches a contract, which would see him often responsible to pay his own transfer value and subject to a mandatory ban. Transfer values have, of course, spiralled out of control and can see players liable for the payment of millions of dollars, something no other employee would have to bear.

"To be fair, the system must give clubs and players reciprocal rights and responsibilities and accord with applicable employment law."

The breakdown on this fundamental point leaves negotiations about the future of the transfer system in doubt.

"FIFPro was open to negotiate reforms to the transfer system that would improve it for all football stakeholders," Van Seggelen said.

"The transfer system is failing football and its players, and highlights the need for further reform."

"FIFPro is increasingly concerned by the gap between rich and poor in the football industry, and how the game continues to face economic problems despite record revenues."

"However, the bigger discussion can only take place if key stakeholders such as the ECA and the EPFL are to support basic measures that will ensure a player contract in professional football is stable and secure," Van Seggelen concluded.

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