European Commission looks into Football
The European Commission could intervene to strengthen the rules surrounding football transfers and the role of agents, according to a new paper published yesterday in the wake of Brussels being granted new powers over sport.
It revealed yesterday that it would organise a conference in the coming months to explore ways the European Union, sporting bodies, players and agents could come together "to improve the situation with regard to the activities of sports agents".
"Transfers of players regularly come to public attention because of concerns about the legality of the acts and about transparency of financial flows involved," it said. "The commission considers that the time has come for an overall evaluation of transfer rules for professional sport in Europe."
Today's EC paper, Developing the European Dimension in Sport, covered a wide range of subjects including an endorsement of Uefa's Financial Fair Play proposals and promises of action on match fixing.
It was the first since a new article in the Lisbon Treaty last year gave the EU a mandate in sport for the first time, allowing it to "support, coordinate and supplement sport policy initiatives of Member States".
A 2009 study for the EC identified problems "of an ethical nature" including "financial crime and the integrity of sports people".
Since then a Fifa working group has indicated that it will abolish its current licensing proposals, which require player agents to be registered through member associations, because more than two-thirds of deals are completed by non-registered agents.
The EC said yesterday it would launch a new study on the economic and legal implications of the transfer of players and come up with new proposals to guide sports bodies.
Some had suggested that Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules, under which clubs will be permitted to make losses of no more than €45m (£38m) over the first two-year period from 2011-12, would not be compatible with the EC's laws on freedom of trade.
But Uefa interpreted yesterday's paper as demonstrating unequivocal support for its plans. "The commission recognises the need to put football's finances in order, something that the Uefa Financial Fair Play regulations will help to do," Michel Platini, the Uefa president, said.
The EC also backed the concept of the centralised sale of TV rights, as long as it could be proved that it was beneficial to the sport as a whole. That will be seen as a boost to Uefa's plans to centralise the sale of TV and marketing rights to international qualifying matches, a concept discussed at the last Uefa executive committee meeting.
Uefa said the communication could also help advance its case for a so-called Europe-wide "betting right" and would provide the framework to investigate links between illicit gambling and match fixing. "Financial stability has to be combined with legal stability, one of the remaining crucial issues for us," Platini said. "We also need urgent action on a topic close to my heart, the fight against match fixing. I look forward to working with all relevant partners on these issues, as the world of sports cannot solve them alone."