Europe

FIFA to get tougher with soccer transfers

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FIFA will use a new online monitoring system for international soccer transfers in a bid to stamp out money laundering and corruption in the $1 billion transfer market.

"This is a historic moment for football," FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Wednesday.

The new monitoring system becomes a requirement for 3,500 professional soccer clubs in nearly 150 nations on Friday. It's an attempt to offset decades of poor oversight that has led to rogue agents controlling their clients, illegal payments between clubs and companies, and money laundering through transfers of fictitious players.

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Clubs are required to match the details of any international player transactions and upload proof of payment, identification of agents and documents to confirm a player's new employer.

Officials declined to say how many investigators they are assigning to look into transfers, but insisted that stiff sanctions await clubs that break the rules - from warnings and fines to a deduction of points and even transfer bans.

"In an online system, you cannot cheat," FIFA legal chief Marco Villiger said.

If the buyer and seller provide differing information, the player can't change teams. All deals must be concluded before the transfer window closes, and FIFA has created an online clock to end the ambiguities over last-second agreements such as the one that sent Andrei Arshavin to Arsenal last year.

The Zurich-based body has been looking for years to find an effective way to better monitor and regulate player transfers and eliminate the deluge of paperwork during peak trading times as clubs faxed details of their deals - sometimes with information that didn't match.

The network went online in 2007 and most major leagues have been using it during the last couple of transfer windows. From Friday, every club will be required to log the details of each player either sold or purchased in an international deal or have the transaction blocked.

With a simple login password, FIFA staff and national soccer officials can inspect deals from anywhere and search for instances of foul play. FIFA officials have previously described money laundering as a "massive problem" involving transfers of imaginary players for cash, but identities must now be established for transactions to be licensed.

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Third-party "owners" of players will see their power curtailed. Individuals such as Anglo-Iranian businessman Kia Joorabchian, who once controlled the "economic rights" to Argentine stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, can no longer hold up a transfer as they seek their own compensation.

And proponents say the new registry should make transfers quicker, smoother and more transparent.

Mark Goddard, head of the FIFA anti-corruption program, said Rafael van der Vaart's last-minute August move from Real Madrid to Tottenham took only 90 minutes to complete and was finished before the window expired. Other deals have been approved in just seven minutes.

The new system also applies to all cross-border movement of minors, regardless of whether they are switching teams or signing their first professional contracts, and players under 18 will need their parents' approval.

Goddard said the new system has effectively ended the market for minors moving around South America - in line with FIFA's efforts to limit the international movement of underage players.

"The clubs essentially said 'This is too hard, there are too many requirements,"' he said.

For all of its benefits, details of transactions won't be shared with the public. Officials say the system has yet to discover a single instance of criminality, while no teams have been penalized and no adult players have been blocked from switching clubs.

Villiger said the system eventually will be expanded to include national transfers as well, so that all player movements in the world can be monitored.

"This is definitely the future," he said.

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