So far we traced back to the genesis of football transfers after which we looked into transfers as they are today and the different steps involved in the process of a transfer. So now that we have done our homework, we will move onto throwing some light on a couple of important actors in a transfer process and two special rulings that have grown into the world of transfers today.
Agents: Chemical X
Football agents are like the players’ local guardians. However, some can also be equated to the character Two-Face from Batman. They do want what’s best for the player, but they have their own of “wanting” this. Some of the agents are fairly decent and go about their business in a clean and pure manner, monitoring, following up and consummating each and every move of their clients in order to ensure that they are at the best club possible – in terms of football and money. However, these two reasons carry very little veracity for a few whose interests lie only in the big bucks and the shiny suits.
To begin with, any individual aspiring to become an agent will first have to fill up a Player-Agent Representation Contract form provided by the FA. Following this, an examination is conducted to test the candidate’s knowledge of the rules as laid out by FIFA and the FA (it’s an MCQ). Upon passing, the candidate is then required to produce proof from the police stating that he/she does not hold a criminal record. Acquiring an indemnity insurance cover that shields the agent against claims of compensation from either player or club would then follow this. The last and final step is to then sign the FIFA Code of Conduct. Once the FA delivers the agent license, the individual can officially take control of players’ careers.
Once an agent helps sign on his client with a certain club, it is his/her responsibility to handle matters of career off the pitch. His presence is essential while the player is negotiating a new contract after two years, when the player wishes for a move to a new club or it can even get as granular as making sure the player attends training sessions on time every day. All these services are accounted for and these are what lead to several high-profile agents win the greens.
The Curious Case of Jorge Mendes
The rise of one of the most powerful agents in world football is indeed an interesting one to take note of. Jorge Paulo Agostinho Mendes – player-turned-bar owner-turned-football agent. After being rejected by several local league clubs in Portugal, Mendes went on to make money by opening bars, nightclubs and a video rental store in his hometown Porto.
What started as a meeting with goalkeeper Nuno Espirito by chance at one of these bars, turned into his first hand at transfers after the player made a move to Deportivo La Coruna. However, what put Mendes on the world map was his involvement with the English Premier League. Following Porto’s victory in the Champions League final, several personnel from the club, starting from manager Jose Mourinho to Tiago were under Chelsea’s radar and very soon Mendes found himself at the epicenter of four deals that transacted with the Blues – Mourinho, Ferriera, Tiago and Carvalho. The agent stood to earn about 2.9 million euros from the player transfers alone. However, it is now reported that Formation, a football agency in England has sued Mendes’ organization GestiFute for breaching an agreement, which facilitates Portuguese talent to feature in the Premier League. This agreement encapsulated the three deals that Chelsea conducted when Mourinho took over.
Mendes was also involved in the transfer that took Ronaldo to Manchester United in 2003 where he earned nearly 1.5 million pounds. Everybody knows about the poorly conducted piece of business, which brought Bebe to United last year. Out of the 9 million euros that was paid for the player, Mendes made a handsome 3.6 million. Goes on to show how cleverly he engineered a move from the player as well as club perspective. Although he is considered a nemesis to many, few can argue with his talent of putting the best with the best and earning handsomely.
Media: Face or Farce?
If agents have the art of orchestrating a transfer, then the media can be considered their partner in crime at some level. The media covers a handful of verticals when it comes to news but funnily enough, when it comes to football transfers, a baby trying to speak its first words makes more sense than what you read.
Primarily, it is the agents who spark off a probability of transfer by breaking a player’s “desire” to play for a certain club. This rumor can then either be quashed or can materialize into something profitable for the buying club, selling club as well as the player. It is all random to be honest; partly because one never knows what happens behind the scenes with a club’s transfer plans and partly because the club might not be interested in the player till such a piece of news breaks out.
One does see his/her share of truth through media sources although the belief in such news comes later than usual. These days however, several media persons, fans and players have turned towards social networking platforms to echo their views, news, opinions and anything that is receptive to an audience that today is thriving on these very platforms.
To sum it up, the media is like an optical illusion. You read into it, not knowing whether it is the truth or not and your first guess regarding a transfer is always going to be uncertain.
The Bosman Ruling
From the first article in this series, we are all aware of the Retain and Transfer system that prevailed for a large part of time wherein the owning club had the power to retain the player irrespective of his wages even after his contract expired. As a result, player movement was largely restricted and only the clubs had the power to allow a player to leave.
In 1956, George Eastham, an Ards player, was transferred to Newcastle United. 3 seasons later, Eastham expressed a desire to leave Tyneside but was held back or ‘retained’ by Newcastle. The club refused several transfer requests coming from the player and eventually Eastham left the club although Newcastle still owned him. A year later, Arsenal came knocking for the player and Eastham signed on for the North London club. However, not before he set the wheels in motion for the Bosman Ruling by filing a case in the High Court against the Retain and Transfer system. The High Court soon discovered that the Retain and Transfer system had to be abolished on grounds of “unreasonable restraint of trade”.
Soon after, it was decided that a player should be allowed to leave for free following expiration of his contract if he wishes to move. The player’s current club however, could offer him a new contract, which would then entitle the club to a transfer fee if the player has to be sold. The buying club, in this situation, has to approach and match the fee even to initiate a transfer. All this changed till Jean-Marc Bosman arrived.
Bosman, a player for FC Liege in top flight Belgian football was a high profile player in Europe. In 1990, French club Dunkirk approached Liege for the signature of Bosman. However, FC Liege refused to let Bosman go by demanding an exorbitant price for the player. This prevented the player from making a move and he eventually resorted to filing a lawsuit against FC Liege, the Belgian football authorities as well as the European authorities on the basis that football regulations regarding transfer fees effectively prevented EU citizens from moving across the border in employment.
Bosman – Brought About a Valuable Change in Transfer Rules
This case was fought for a long period of 5 years at the end of which Bosman won the case. The European Court of Justice agreed that the existing football rules were in violation of the European Union law on free movement of employees between member countries. And with this, the Bosman ruling was born. A player, out of his contract, has the freedom to switch clubs and move across members of the EU without the club levying any fees. Players can now also discuss their own deals with interested parties.
Top quality players stand to gain the most from the Bosman ruling, since they have the power to discuss their own deals. By avoiding payment for a Bosman transfer, the club eventually hands over a thicker bundle to the player. On the flipside, lower league clubs with top quality local players of young blood will not be able to exploit their value to the fullest if they quote higher prices when offers come in. Top clubs then look for the same young talent in foreign countries. This further leads to lack of recognition of national talent.
The Webster Ruling
So far, we have seen that a player can be sold to another club or, under the Bosman ruling, can move to another interested club once his contract expires. However, this still doesn’t cover the scenario where there is an interested party, a player interested in a move but still under contract. How does a transfer take place in such a situation?
Rangers F.C approached Andy Webster, a Scottish defender playing for Hearts, in 2005 and the player was said to be interested in a move. However, Hearts imposed a restriction on this transfer and Webster eventually got into a tiff with club owner Vladimir Romanov and was omitted from the squad for the rest of the 2005/06 season.
FIFA has instilled a so-called “protected period” rule on a player’s contract in its “Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players” section. The rule states that any player under the age of 28 has a protected period of three years (seasons) after which he is free to buy out the remainder of his contract. For a player who is 28 or older, this protected period is set to two years.
Here is how the above rule applies in Andy Webster’s case – In 2007, FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber gathered and decided that Webster owed Hearts 625,000 pounds if he was to buy out his contract. This figure was a canopy of his remaining wages, costs arising from legal issues and future potential. Hearts appealed against this figure, bringing their own valuation of Webster, which was a heavy 5 million pounds. Webster however, had served more than three years of his contract with Hearts and hence was entitled to pay approximately 250,000 pounds.
Following the arbitration, both Hearts and Andy Webster raised appeals and finally in 2008, the Court of Arbitration for Sport decided to rule in favor of Webster. Also, the amount payable by him to Hearts was reduced from 250,000 to 150,000 after much consideration. With this, the Webster ruling was first exercised and came into picture. One of the famous names to have resorted to this medium in order to seek a transfer is Jonas Gutierrez; when he moved from Mallorca to Newcastle United.