Soccer

FIFA: Player market recovers as economies improve

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LONDON (AP)

FIFA says transfer spending is increasing globally as some countries recover from the economic downturn, while questioning if clubs are hiding money from some player moves.

Kimberly Morris, from FIFA's transfer unit, said $929 million from transfers across different countries was registered in the first half of 2013.

That's 40 percent more than the $664 million spent between January and June last year, and closer to the 2011 figure of $855 million.

''Certainly the economic fortunes of certain countries are getting better, others are falling,'' Morris told The Associated Press. ''I think people are maybe feeling a bit more optimistic on the whole and that may be the reason there is an increase. There is certainly a clear increase.''

The costliest deal in the summer transfer window in Europe so far has been Brazil forward Neymar joining Barcelona from Santos for $74 million.

English clubs tend to be the biggest spenders, and the most expensive Premier League import this summer is currently Brazil midfielder Fernandinho, who was acquired from Shakhtar Donetsk by Manchester City for $45 million.

Registering cross-border deals with FIFA's Transfer Matching System has been mandatory since 2010 in a bid to curb money laundering and corrupt deals. The online system requires buying and selling clubs to input matching information, including payment schedules, before a transfer is approved.

Speaking at a World Sports Law Report conference in London, Morris questioned why the $929 million this year has been generated by only 12 percent of deals, with the rest appearing to be free moves.

Morris highlighted how the ''bulk of transfers don't generate the bulk of wealth.''

''As a lawyer and as a compliance person I'm curious to know whether ... that's actually representative or whether there's a lot of money that's not being captured. Because 12 percent and almost a billion dollars is a really interesting discrepancy.''

Morris is also concerned that some free transfers might be used to avoid taxes.

''There is very interesting activity, particularly with Brazil-Uruguay and Argentina-Uruguay where payers are moving for free and then being loaned out, where the money resides in the tax haven of Uruguay,'' she said. ''And that's something we are looking at and considering why it is happening.''

FIFA has sanctioned clubs that break its transfer rules, fining Argentine club Independiente and Italian side Genoa this year.

In a blocked deal for defender Julian Velazquez, Independiente tried to charge buying club Genoa for a document that should have been provided for free. Genoa was also fined $37,000 for failing to submit documents to FIFA's online process.

''What you are seeing is a much bigger appetite at the disciplinary committee level - as you saw with the Genoa-Independiente case - to impose sanctions that have some teeth,'' Morris said. ''Because if you fine a club 35,000 (Swiss francs), that's going to maybe have a difference to their bottom line rather than just 5,000. If the fines get bigger and the fines get more pronounced, it's going to have a knock-on effect in terms of the behavior you see.''

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Rob Harris can be reached at www.twitter.com/RobHarris

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