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The implementation of a worldwide third-party ownership (TPO) ban and matters relating to FIFPro's bid to overhaul football's failing transfer system were among the key issues addressed during the 2014 FIFPro Legal Conference.

Nearly 100 participants from FIFPro's global membership attended the two-day meeting, at FIFPro House near Amsterdam, where the debate around TPO took on greater significance following the announcement that FIFA would eliminate the harmful practice.

FIFPro Vice President and board member, Brendan Schwab, who sits on the FIFA Players' Status Committee and the TPO Working Group which advised FIFA's Executive Committee on the matter, said: "The sole justification by supporters of TPO is the perceived economic benefits, but the extensive research that's been undertaken proves the economic impact of TPO is overwhelmingly negative and severely damaging the industry."

"For those clubs that become reliant on it, it puts them in a vicious cycle of debt and dependency. It artificially inflates the transfer market beyond its already excessive extremes, and it results in the cartelisation of the practice where a small number of very powerful figures are able to wield extensive influence on football."

The issue of TPO came into focus following presentations from Santiago Nebot, a lawyer representing the Spanish footballers' association, AFE, who highlighted the deeply complex issues encountered by those intent on regulating TPO in Spain. Sports lawyer Andrew Nixon measured TPO in the context of prohibition versus regulation, to which Schwab insists: "Any effort to regulate TPO would be expansionary and only exacerbate the problems."PieterPaepe

"At the moment, TPO exists in pockets - South America, Spain and Portugal, for example - but it's overwhelmingly opposed by the rest of the football world. If FIFA was to regulate it, then FIFA would effectively be committing to expanding TPO into those countries which, for very good reasons, presently oppose it." (Read more about FIFPro's position on TPO here)

An update on FIFPro's legal challenge to the transfer system saw contributions from two experts. Pieter Paepe (pictured right), who is advising FIFPro on the transfer system complaint, revisited the Dahmane case, a ruling helping to define professional footballers as normal employees which has been compared to other positive cases for players such as Bosman and Webster. Braham Dabscheck explained the failing economics of professional football and how improved models of revenue sharing can address competitive imbalance.

FIFPro is of the opinion that one of the core reasons why abusive practices such as TPO have been allowed to flourish stems from the ineffectiveness of FIFA's player transfer system, which operates on very shaky legal grounds. TPO and the failings of the transfer system are interlinked as a response to the dramatic spiral of sporting and economic inequality the current FIFA regulations help to promote.

Other speakers included Juan Pablo Meneses (author of Ninos Futbolistas: research on the transfer of young children ); Jan Popma (psycho-social harassment: soft law strategies to tackle harsh problems like bullying, harassment and other integrity issues on the work floor); Mark Hovell (recent developments in football-related CAS decisions which have importance for players); Joao Nogueira da Rocha (recent CAS decisions in doping cases); and Nicos Nicolaou (the new licensing system in Cyprus in order to prevent overdue payables).

FIFPro legal chief Wil Van Megen said: "With a number of excellent speakers we had a good deal of presentations all contributing to the understanding of the legal position of players. In fact this is what player unions need most: the tools to defend the rights of their members and protect the integrity of the game".

To access presentations in full, some of which have been made available to the general public, click on this link.

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Photo (right to left): Theo van Seggelen, Wil van Megen, Mark Hovell, Joao Nogueira da Rocha, Braham Dabscheck, Juan Pablo Meneses

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