UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino has stated that the controversial practice of third-party player ownership (TPO) has “no place” in football.
Infantino, writing in the UEFA Direct publication, said that European football’s governing body is against TPO due to four key factors, including its potential impact on financial fair play regulations. Along with the English Premier League, TPO is currently outlawed in France’s Ligue 1 and in Polish football. FIFA says it is evaluating the “complex matter,” while UEFA has previously said it will seek to introduce its own ban if world football’s governing body fails to take action. A European Commission report was released last month examining the possibility of regulating TPO under European law. The European Club Association (ECA), which represents 207 teams on the continent, also debated TPO at its recent general assembly but said there was “no unanimity” amongst members regarding a complete ban, adding that further talks will be held over the implications of such a move.
TPO is said to be a US$3 billion-a-year market and is common practice in southern Europe and South America. However, Infantino wrote: “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.”
He continued: “Thirdly, the business model of those involved in third-party player ownership is predicated on players changing clubs frequently. Put bluntly, more transfers mean 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.” Infantino stressed that UEFA would seek to implement a Europe-wide ban should FIFA fail to act. “We understand that an adjustment period may be needed, and UEFA would be in favour of transitional measures,” he added. “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.”