On February 13, 2020, FIFA, the international governing body of football, released Circular no. 1709, informing its member associations of the adoption of several amendments, approved by the FIFA Council in Shanghai on 24 October 2019, to their Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (“RSTP”).
As one of the most important regulations enacted by FIFA, the RSTP ensure contractual stability in the world of football and contractual cohesion amongst players, clubs and member associations.
In a nutshell, the recent changes to the RSTP include:
- Application of the solidarity mechanism to national transfers with an international dimension;
- Specifications on the international transfer of minors;
- Streamlining of process for provisional registration of players;
- Handling of validation exceptions through the Transfer Matching System (TMS); and
- Specifications on bridge transfers.
A. Application of the solidarity mechanism to national transfers with an international dimension and two clarifications concerning training compensation
It is worth considering how the FIFA solidarity mechanism works under the RSTP. If a professional football player moves from one club to another during the course of his employment contract, 5% of any compensation – not including training compensation paid to his former club – will be deducted from the total amount of this fee and distributed by the new club as a solidarity contribution to the club(s) that were involved, over the years, in his training and education.
By way of the 2020 amendments to the RSTP, subject to whether compensation is paid, the transfer of a player during the course of a contract between clubs affiliated to the same association will now be subject to the payment of a solidarity contribution to any of the player's training clubs affiliated to a different association.
In addition, the RSTP articles concerning training compensation have been updated to harmonise language (art. 20) and to codify existing practice (art. 22 lit. e)).
B. Reflecting the established practice regarding the international transfer of minors
Over the years, the general prohibition on the international transfer of minors has been the subject of two unwritten exceptions which have now been incorporated to reflect the well-established jurisprudence of the Sub-Committee of the FIFA Players' Status Committee ("the sub-committee”).
The first exception, now codified under the RSTP, allows registration where the minor player has fled his country of origin without his parents for humanitarian reasons. The 2020 RSTP make specific reference to situations in which the player’s life or freedom is being threatened, and he has been (at least) temporarily permitted to reside in the country of arrival.
The second exception allows registration where a minor has temporarily moved without his parents to another country for academic reasons. In accordance with the 2020 RSTP, the player's registration with the new club until they turn 18, or until the end of the academic or school programme, may not exceed one year.
C. Provisional registration of players: streamlining of process
The RSTP provisions regarding the provisional registration of players where an International Transfer Certificate (“ITC”) has not been delivered by the former association, have been amended to simplify the procedure.
Under the updated RSTP, the former association will have seven days (reduced from 15) as from an lTC request to consult with its affiliated club about the contractual situation of a player and decide to refuse or grant international clearance.
If a response is not provided, the new association may immediately proceed to provisionally register the player.
The new RSTP provides that, should the former association reject the request for the lTC, FIFA may now immediately decide, if explicitly requested by the new association, on the authorisation of the provisional registration of the player with the new club.
D. Handling of validation exceptions through TMS
In accordance with the updated RSTP, all requests by an association for FIFA's intervention regarding “validation exceptions” will now be exclusively managed through TMS. This will be for the purpose of providing a uniform process for “validation exceptions” blocking international transfers in TMS, especially in situation in which an ITC request is made outside a registration period or is rejected.
E. Bridge transfers
The RSTP now defines a “bridge transfer" as “any two consecutive transfers, national or international, of the same player connected to each other and comprising a registration of that player with the middle club to circumvent the application of the relevant regulations or laws and/or defraud another person or entity”.
The updated RSTP explicitly prohibit bridge transfer as illegitimate practices, creating the presumption that the parties have been involved in a bridge transfer if two consecutive transfers of the same player occur within a period of 16 weeks. As specified by FIFA, this may be refuted with evidence to the contrary.
All amendments to the RSTP will come into force on 1 March 2020, with the exception of those at paragraph A above, which will come into force on 1 July 2020.
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