Saudi Arabia: Minor To Major: The Transfer Of Youth Soccer Players

Last Updated: 9 November 2017
Article by Ivor McGettigan

With more than USD 4.79 billion spent in sports player transfer fees in 2016 alone, the global transfer market for footballers continues its upward trajectory and the recent Euro 222m transfer of Neymar shows it is gaining pace.

As the acquisition of established talent becomes prohibitively expensive, football clubs are increasingly interested in acquiring younger football talent. FIFA has put in place safeguards for the transfer/registration of underage players (referred to as minors) by means of Article 19 of FIFA's Regulation on the Status and Transfer of Players ('RSTP').

This article will look at the current application and enforcement of Article 19, examining:

(i) the introduction and amendment of Article 19;

(ii) the exceptions available under it;

(iii) enforcement and recent case law; and

(iv) shortfalls and limitations.

A Stricter Approach

Article 19 was first introduced in the 2001 edition of the RSTP, restricting the international transfer of players in the 10 to 18 years of age bracket. A small number of exceptions to the general rule were provided, which allowed an international transfer of a minor in cases where:

(i) the player's parents move to the country where the offering club is based for reasons unrelated to football; 

(ii) the player is aged 16-18 and the transfer is within the European Union or the European Economic Area; and 

(iii) the player's domicile is within 50 km of a national border and no further than 100 km from the club's headquarters. 

The club needs to apply for exemption approval from FIFA's Status Committee, through their country's national football association, to register the player. 

Additionally, Article 19 extends the restriction to players registering with a club for the first time (i.e. not a transfer), if the player is not a national in the country whose club with which they wish to register. The RSTP was drafted in accordance with previous negotiations between FIFA and the European Commission, thereby providing an impression of Article 19 operating in amenability with European law. 

In 2009, RSTP was amended to include clubs who were not registered with their national association. 

Additionally, in 2009 the 'Sub-Committee' was created, tasked with overseeing the enforcement of Article 19. All applications for international transfers and first registration of minors are now required to be assessed by the Sub-Committee and must be submitted through FIFA's Transfer Matching System. In the event that a submission is rejected by the Sub-Committee, an associated club can appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports ('CAS') within 21 days of receiving the grounds of the Sub-Committee's decision.  

Challenges and Exceptions

The jurisprudence of both CAS and the Sub-Committee has allowed for the creation of additional exceptions to Article 19. For example, foreign minors who have been living for more than five consecutive years in the country in which they wish to register, as well as exchange students seeking to register for up to one year, have had their first-time registration approved. Other exceptional circumstances have been dealt with on a case-by-case basis by CAS, such as situations involving minor players seeking registration in a country where they are currently residing as refugees. 

Ultimately, one of the biggest and most controversial challenges facing CAS is in relation to cases where a player's parents move to the country in which the new club is located and determining whether it is for 'reasons unrelated to football'. Famously, FC Barcelona brought Messi and his parents to Spain when he was 13 years old. This predated Article 19. 

CAS has held that an aunt (or any similar relative) may not normally substitute a minor's parents in order to trigger this exception.

The Gulf region is interesting in that a huge percentage of the population are non-nationals, meaning that there are a large number of youth players whose parents have come to the region for non-football related reasons, i.e., they may be able to avail of the exception and successfully sign for a local club. 

Enforcement

A number of recent cases involving European clubs have demonstrated the severity of sanctions, imposed in line with the FIFA Disciplinary Code, on violations of Article 19. One such case that received extensive media coverage involved FC Barcelona, which was brought before the disciplinary committee in 2013 for registering 10 minors in violation of the RSTP. The club received a transfer ban prohibiting it from signing any new players for two transfer windows; this ban was later upheld by CAS in 2014 upon appeal by the club. More recently, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee sanctioned Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid for breaching the RSTP following the conclusions of investigations concerning minor players involved with each club. Both clubs received a transfer ban restricting the registration of any national or international players for two transfer windows, commencing January 2017, with Real's ban being reduced by CAS to one transfer window, so it has now expired. 

Shortfalls

Despite the strict enforcement and interpretation of Article 19, abusive transfer practices that fall outside the coverage of the RSTP's coverage still persist. 

There has been concern that large groups of players who had just turned 18 were trafficked and sent to mass football trials in Europe, with the players left unattended and without a ticket to return home should they fail to be selected. 

Moreover, despite FIFA lowering the minimum age limit for international transfer certificates from 12 to 10 years of age (following the 2013 FC Barcelona investigation), concern remains that the age threshold is still too high. It has been suggested that clubs will simply look to even younger players and there is some evidence of this; in 2013, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona signed nine year olds Takuhiro Nakai, from Japan, and Sandro Reyes, from the Philippines. 

Coming of Age

The RSTP further provides that minor players cannot sign a professional contract with a term of more than three years. This means that when the contract term expires after the player's 18th birthday (so this moment cannot be later than the day before his 21st birthday) the player is free to sign with any club he may choose. The prior club cannot force the player to sign a new professional contract with itself. From the club's perspective, this provision may appear harsh, in that they have trained and developed the player and expended considerable time and money doing so; however, the club may be entitled to 'training compensation'. Training compensation is paid according to a particular formula, to a player's training clubs, when he first signs a professional contract and each time he is transferred until the end of the season of his 23rd birthday.

Conclusion

The Neymar transfer brings us into unchartered waters as regards evaluating the worth of a player. The continued upward trajectory in transfer fees will lead to inevitable pressure on clubs to consider recruiting more cheaply by investing in youth players. However, it is not a free and open market due to the sensible restrictions FIFA has put in place. Yet, the opportunity to obtain an exemption for the transfer/registration of youth players is probably higher in the Gulf than any other area in the world due to the demographics and the exception where the player's parents move to the country for reasons unrelated to football. On the other hand, local football associations have quotas in place in relation to the number of foreign players allowed to play first team football. Ultimately, it is a matter for local football associations and their clubs to consider whether allowing a greater number of resident youth players aligns with their objectives.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

    Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of www.mondaq.com

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

    Disclaimer

    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

    Registration

    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

    Cookies

    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

    Links

    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

    Mail-A-Friend

    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

    Emails

    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .

    Security

    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions