FIFA to get tougher with soccer transfers

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 of 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.

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.

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.