With the global football calendar soaring in coronation, FIFA is scrambling to write new rules for player contracts and transactions between clubs in an effort to create a road map from the sport’s unique shutdown.
Lawyers at FIFA’s Zurich headquarters have been blocked (virtually) by representatives from leagues, clubs and players’ unions providing a framework to deal with the cascading issues created by the pandemic.
With leagues around the world idle – many are nearing the end of their season – and thousands of athletes at home, unable to practice, clubs are increasingly concerned about their financial future. Many have applied patchwork measurements alone to try to mitigate the stopping effect.
Now FIFA is trying to come up with a plan to deal with the aftermath of the frozen season and eventually restart in football with all of the business that goes along with it. Estimates for roadside costs vary widely, but industry leaders are wary of an enormous impact. Andrea Agnelli, the head of Europe’s trade body for clubs, said its members were facing “the biggest challenge the game and our industry has ever faced.”
In a confidential document with the headline “COVID-19: Football Regulatory Issues,” a copy was reviewed by the New York Times, a special task force from FIFA setting out the most pressing issues. Its main focus is on player contracts and transfer windows – periods when clubs can buy and sell player contracts. There are typically two windows, one in the middle of the season and the other in the off season.
But with no certainty as to when the seasons will now end, FIFA has proposed that clubs extend their contracts to players whose agreements have expired this summer until their season can be completed. He also suggested that players who join new clubs as free agents continue with their current clubs until the end of the seasons.
The proposals, which are an attempt to balance the needs of clubs and players, also address a glaring issue: how to compensate club employees when their sources of revenue for many teams, particularly younger ones derive more revenue from stadium receipts. pass. from contract deals, has decreased – almost completely, in some cases.
“It is clear that the COVID-19 virus outbreak has frustrated football employment agreements on a global basis,” the FIFA document said. “The obligations placed on both parties have been made impossible – the players and coaches are unable to work; the clubs are unable to provide work, nor are they in a position to compensate their employees for work they are not given.”
Without any central direction yet, the clubs have come up with a wide range of solutions for themselves. Some have already struck friendly agreements with players to reduce salary payments. At Leeds United, a second-tier club ready to accelerate promotion to the Premier League when players stopped playing, players agreed to a salary cap so the club could continue to pay other staff. At the top of France’s divisions, Lyons and Marseille used French law to put players in a form of technical unemployment, so the government would contribute part of their earnings.
Some of the biggest clubs also feel the pinch. Barcelona announced today that it had temporarily cut club salaries, including those of players and staff, but did not provide specific figures.
In some cases, relationships between clubs and players have been soured. In Switzerland, FC Sion fired nine players after being denied a pay cut. The players’ union in Colombia issued a furious comment Wednesday after Independiente Santa Fe posted a Twitter poll asking its fans to vote on whether the team’s players should have their salaries reduced.
In some countries, including Croatia, Cyprus, Israel and Malta, clubs unilaterally made pay cuts in the first days of the shutdown.
With these variations, FIFA has tried to provide a framework for negotiations, starting with a recommendation that clubs and players come to an agreement to defer or reduce wages while no football is being played.
FIFA also proposes that clubs look at the option of furloughing players, “providing adequate alternative income support arrangements can be found for staff during the period in question.” This could be the case in countries such as Britain, where the government has agreed to pay up to 80% of an employee’s salary if the employer is unable to operate.
FIFA’s most direct initiative, though, is a suggestion that it could dip into its own cash reserves to help pay wages for players to suddenly leave without an income.
FIFA has also anticipated that the current suspension disruption will wipe out the $ 7 billion annual player trading window. Discussions that sometimes take months are rushed into days, as an urgent plan to change the contours of the global transfer windows quickly comes together.
Perhaps the most pressing concern for FIFA is the European trading window this summer, which has been set to open in some of Europe’s biggest leagues since May. This is currently impossible, given that the current season cannot be completed by then. FIFA said it would not set a deadline on any league to end the current season and would also approve any request to change the transfer window date. Teams could transact for as long as 16 weeks, FIFA said, four weeks longer than the previous maximum for a window.
A working group led by Victor Montagliani, a FIFA vice president, discussed the matter on Thursday, though no final decision was taken.
The nature of the spinning head events brought on by the coronavirus has led to a rare period of collaboration among the major football league, club and governing body. This was made clear in a letter sent to members of the European Club Association, an umbrella group for around 200 top division teams. It was written by Agnelli, president of the organization, who is also president of Italian club Juventus.
Agnelli described the current situation as “a real threat to existence.”
He laid out two key goals for his group: First was defining strategies to get players back on the field safely. This emphasis suggested a desire to play games without spectators first, probably for a long period.
The group’s second focus, Agnelli said, was coordinating efforts to “help manage club financials in times of social and economic crisis.”