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Protecting Minors in FIFA

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The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the body
that governs football in the world. The organisation was started in the
year 1904 by various metropolitan football officials from multiple
countries namely, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Spain,
Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany; with the sole purpose of
unifying interpreting football regulations and further established a major
European competition (Eisenberg, 2006).
Currently, FIFA is made up of football associations from 211 nations, and
as such, the organisation has grown and spread to every part of the world,
and it boasts of a vast number of member states as compared to the
United Nations Organisation (UNO).
There is the need to understand that FIFA is not charged with controlling
the rules of football (the International Football Association Board does
that). However, it remains FIFA responsibilities to organise and promote
a number of tournaments that ultimately generate income from
Importance of Protecting Minors
FIFA’s Article 19 is the immovable object which puts to a
halt the illegal trafficking of minor footballers. Middlemen
and agents lure less privileged footballers from South
America and Africa to Europe, promising them try-outs in
clubs in Europe. This never comes to pass as the minors are
often left abandoned in foreign nations with no form of
support. Exploitation and human trafficking disguised as
career advancements needs to be stopped because:
• Human trafficking is illegal
• Exploitation is a violation of the fundamental human
• Minors are vulnerable
History of the Transfer System in FIFA

The Football League gained popularity after its

formation in the year 1888, and so did the concept
of transfers. However, small teams raised concerns
regarding the increasing imbalance in the game,
with the fear that more prominent and wealthy
clubs would gain dominance over the league due
to the ability to pay higher wages (Stewart, 1986;
Fordyce, 2005). Similarly, the Football League
suggested that it was pertinent to spread talent to
avoid disappointing spectators in the competition.
History of the Transfer System in FIFA

What followed was the "retain and transfer"

system that was introduced with the aim of placing
restrictions on player transfers. As per the policy,
once a player was registered with particular
Football League club, he had to seek permission
from the club he was registered with if he wanted
to move to another one, even in seasons that
followed (Stewart, 1986).
Moreover, if the club declined to release his
registration, he could not move to another club.
History of the Transfer System in FIFA
The holding club held a virtual monopoly over the
services of the footballer as the club had the power
to retain the individual or else agree to transfer his
registration to a different club, in return for a
transfer fee. If the registering club failed to release
the player to another club, the individual was left
with two options. The first and most preferred
choice was moving to a club in the Southern League
where limitations on transfer were not introduced.
History of the Transfer System in FIFA

The second option, and which was detrimental

to most talented football players, was quit
playing football and seek other full-time
Another rule regarded a situation when two
partisan football clubs failed to agree on the
reasonable transfer fee, where UEFA could be
involved in deciding a compensation the club
pays to sign the player.
Overview of the Bosman Case

Bosman was a professional footballer at RC Liege in the year

1990. He was offered a one year contract which he declined
and as a result, was put on the transfer list at a fee of BFr
11,743,000. The transfer fee was so huge that there was no
club which was willing to pay. However, Bosman was
successful at negotiating a move to US Dunkerque. This
enabled Dunkerque to secure a permanent deal by paying
BFr 4.8 million extra to RC Liege. Liege on the other hand
did not request for the international clearance certificate due
to concerns regarding Dunkerques’ solvency. Consequently,
the contract expired thereby leaving Bosman without a job.
Overview of the Bosman Case

Bosman filed a law suit against RBFA and RC Liege on

grounds that the transfer system run in Belgium and
sanctioned by Union of European Football Association
breached article 45 because it restricted him from taking up
employment in other member states. He also cited that the
‘3+2’ rule by UEFA breached article 45 as it was enforced
while his law suit was still on course and thus precluded him
from joining other Belgium clubs since majority of them
would have attained the foreign quota and thus would not
give him employment. Therefore, this resulted to a limitation
of his ability to ply his trade freely across the European
Union which was against article 45.
Overview of the Bosman Case

Therefore, the litigation was referred to the Court Of

Justice of the European Union which needed to
determine whether article 45 may be interpreted barring
a football club from receiving as well as requiring
payments when one of its players who is out of a
contract engages a new potential employing club.
The court ruled that, demand for transfer fees by a
previous employer, after completion of a contract is a
hindrance to the free movement of workers as it stalled
and also potentially limited a footballer’s ability to join a
new employer.
Impact of Bosman Case on Transfer
Positive Effects
• No transfer fees on players who are out of
• Increase in the wages paid to players
• Increase in numbers of foreign footballers
within the European Football leagues because
of non-restricted movement of players across
Impact of Bosman Case on Transfer
Negative Impacts
• Exploitation
• Non-development in African football
• Human trade (Andreff, 2004)
• Increased transfer fees for players
Regulation on the Status and Transfer
of Players (RSTP)
The RSTP was enacted in the year 1982 when the
very first regulations were implemented by UEFA
and stipulated the principles of cooperation among
clubs from various nations of the European
Economic Community. The RSTP entail rules that
determine how international transfers are conducted
between national associations. The rules bind
national clubs and associations, and in that sense,
they do not directly affect players, but at the same
time, it is significant to note that the regulations
apparently impact the work ties between the club
Introduction to Article 19 (RSTP)

Minors present a crucial aspect in the modern

football transfer system. Clubs and national
associations invest vast sums of money not only in
training but also in educating young players. In
that light, the protection of young football players
(minors) becomes a priority for football bodies. In
efforts to protect the minors, and also the
particular teams and nationals that are involved in
investing in their education, FIFA has provisions,
which is a complete legal framework.
Protection of Minors(RSTP)

Article 19 of FIFA’s regulations on Protection of

1. International transfer of footballers is only
allowable when the footballer is beyond 18
2. Below are exceptions to the above rule:
a) Relocation by the parents of the footballer to the
nation where the prospect club is situated, should
be due to other motives that are not football
RSTP (Contd’)
b) The transfers is in the territories of the EU or European
Economic Areas and the footballer is between ages 16 to 18.
In such scenarios, the new club should satisfy the stated
I. Offer the footballer with suitable football education and
training which are up to standards.
II. Agreement to provide the footballer vocational as well
as academic education or training that will enable the
footballer to follow a profession that is different from
football in the event that he or she stops playing football
III. The new club must ensure that player is well catered for
in the best possible manner
RSTP (Contd’)

And finally, with regards to Article 19 (2) b, on the on

registration of the footballer, the club must offer
appropriate federation with evidence that it adheres to
the said requirements

c) The other exclusion is that the youth resides within 50

kilometres from a country’s boundary line, and the football
club that youth wishes to sign in the neighbouring country is
as well within the same distance of the same border. In such
a situation, the overall distance between residence of the
footballer and the headquarters of the club should be 100km.
RSTP (Cont.)
3. The terms and conditions of Article 19 are applicable to
players who have never been registered with another club,
previously, and aren’t residents of the nation where they
desire to be registered for the first time.
4. Every federation needs to make sure that this provision is
respected the clubs it governs.
5. The players’ status committee will be capable of
determining any issue that comes up with regards to this
matters as well as impose adequate sanctions in cases when
the provisions are violated.
Amendments to Article 19 (RSTP)
The current regulations regarding the protection of underage football
players dating back to an agreement that was signed in the year 2001 by
various entities, namely FIFA, the European Commission, and UEFA.
The regulations have undergone different developments and
strengthening over the years.
Article 19bis is part of the 2009 amendment that requires that football
clubs operating an academy with links to the club (i.e., in the form of
financial, legal, or de facto connections) are expected to give an account
of all underage players in the academies to the National federation upon
where the academy functions (Minderhoud, 2011)
The article goes on to state that the ban on signing underage foreign
football players as contained in Article 19 (RSTP) will apply when
academies are reporting minors (VanMarren, 2016). It is pertinent to note
that the RSTP provides an intensive and well-formulated definition of the
term ‘academy'
Amendments to Article 19 (RSTP)

Currently, Article 19 paragraph 3 and 4, regarding the

protection of minors has been amended in terms of wording
and it thus reads:
“The conditions of this article shall also apply to any
player who has never previously been registered with a
club, is not a national of the country in which he wishes
to be registered for the first time and has not lived
continuously for at least the last five years in said
country (Villiger, 2016).”
Amendments to Article 19 (RSTP)

Currently, Article 19 paragraph 4, regarding the protection of

minors reads:
“Every international transfer according to paragraph 2 and
every first registration according to paragraph 3, as well
as every first registration of a foreign minor player
who has lived continuously for at least the last five
years in the country in which he wishes to be
registered, is subject to the approval of the subcommittee
appointed by the Players’ Status Committee for that
purpose (Villiger, 2016).”
Steps for Transfer of a Young Player
Compliance to Article 19
FIFA’s Transfer Matching System (TMS) has
been managing the transfer of professional
footballers. However, as of October 1, 2009,
TMS manages first registrations of non-
national minors and all international transfers
that require FIFA’s approval.
Players who Have Missed Opportunities to Play
in Europe because of Article 19 (RSTP)
Ben Lederman
Ben Lederman’ s family migrated to Barcelona from California in the
year 2011, hoping that their son would be the first American to play for
one of Europe’s elite club, Barcelona. It is over one year and he has never
featured in Barcelona’s youth team.
Acuña Caballero
In January of the year 2005, Acuña Caballero, a sixteen-year-old football
player represented Olimpia, his Paraguayan club in an international
tournament for the under the 20s. Due to his commendable talent, he
attracted foreign interest and as a result, he and his family on 14 February
2005 left Paraguay for Cádiz, Spain. Three days after migrating to Spain,
Acuña and the club signed a contract, and on request, Olimpia agreed to
the transfer (VanMarren, 2016). Things went south when the football
association of Paraguay declined to provide the mandatory ITC
(international transfer certificate) with the claim that it would be a
violation of the provisions of FIFA considering Acuña’s age.
Lawsuit Facing FIFA in Zurich
Commercial Court
FIFA is currently facing a lawsuit in the Zurich
Commercial Court against a a player aged 17 years
old and his parents who argue that the rules make
the transfer regulations of FIFA unlawful.
The 17 year old player who had represented his
nation at the youth level was not able to join clubs
in the EU as a result of the rules. Consequently,
both the player and his parents miss the special
opportunity of a social and professional
Lawsuit Facing FIFA in Zurich
Commercial Court
With regards to the lawsuit, the only other exception is
that transfers are allowed within the European
Economic Area (EEA) or the European Union where
the minimum required age is 16 years. In such
scenarios clubs need to make sure that the footballer
continues with their education for other careers and
also guarantee quality living standards.
The regulations were implemented by FIFA so that
claimants such as the African player can be protected.
The court has not yet made a ruling on the case.
Protection of young football players is critical not only for
purposes of future game but also in safeguarding the welfare
of the youth. With the regulations established in Article 19 of
FIFA RSTP, it is evident that transfer of underage footballers
is illegal, and when it happens, the right protocol has to be
fully followed. The exceptions in transfer of minors in the
international context ensure that emerging issues in the
transfer system are addressed. The paper has fully addressed
the various concepts of article 19 and further explained the
amendments that have been done since its establishment.
Andreff, W (2004) “The Taxation of player moves from developing countries”,
Westport and London, Praeger
Boyes, S. (2013). Eastham v Newcastle United FC Ltd [1964] Ch 413. In J. Anderson,
Leading Cases in Sports Law (pp. 77-90). The Hague, The Netherlands: T.M.C.
Asser Press.
Eisenberg, C. (2006). FIFA 1975-2000: The business of a football development
organisation. Historical Social Research, 31(1), 55-68.
Fordyce, T. (2005). 10 years since Bosman. Retrieved November 8, 2017, from
BBCSport Football: http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/4528732.stm
Minderhoud, P. (2011). Obstacles to free movement of young workers. European
network on free movement of workers, 1-22.
Stewart, G. (1986). The retain and transfer system: an alternative perspective. Emerald
Insight, 25-29.
Sutherland, R. J. (1988). The Labour Market in Professional Football. Management
Research News, 11 (1), 5-6.
VanMarren, O. (2016). FIFA’s provision on the protection of minors - Part 1: The
Early Years. By Kester Mekenkamp.