Sports Q&A - What’s FIFA’s position on the transfer window and other regulatory issues impacted by the Covid-19 crisis?
06 July 2020
Following the unprecedented disruption caused to football by COVID-19, FIFA published a set of principles and guidelines back in April 2020 in order to address some of the key regulatory and legal issues arising, especially with regard to player contracts and the transfer system.
Since then, FIFA has conducted a number of workshops with key stakeholders which has led to a number of frequently asked questions as well as new regulatory and legal issues for consideration.
Our Q&A this month takes a look at the key questions and changes announced.
Has FIFA declared a “force majeure” situation and, if so, can this declaration be relied upon by national associations, clubs and players?
FIFA has not declared that COVID-19 is a force majeure event in any specific country or territory, or that any specific employment or transfer agreement has been impacted by the concept of force majeure.
Therefore, whether or not a force majeure situation exists is a matter of law and fact, which must be addressed on a case-by-case basis vis-à-vis the relevant laws that are applicable to any specific employment or transfer agreement.
What’s the position regarding expiring player contracts and new player contracts?
FIFA understands that it is not a party to employment agreements between clubs and their employees, or the transfer agreements between two clubs. FIFA also has no authority pursuant to any national law, FIFA regulation, or national football regulation to unilaterally amend the terms and conditions of such agreements.
However, in order for clubs to complete its domestic seasons with their original squads and to safeguard the integrity of competitions, FIFA has strongly encouraged parties to extend existing agreements (such as player contracts and loan agreements) which are due to expire prior to the conclusion of the 2019/20 season and to delay the commencement of new agreements until the new start date of the next season.
FIFA recognises that clubs, players and managers may decide not to negotiate such extensions, but it “strongly believes that for football to collectively move forward from the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, its recommendations regarding the extension of expiring agreements and delay of new agreements should be respected by all parties.”
It is also important to point out that if the parties decide not to negotiate such extensions, then there is a risk that clubs will complete the season with reduced squads and players may not be registered with another club for a significant period of time depending on when the transfer window reopens.
What is going to happen to the dates of the transfer window?
Article 6 paragraph 2 of FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players states that “[t]he first registration period shall begin after the completion of the season and shall normally end before the new season starts”.
Several national associations have requested that the first registration period for the 2020/21 season begins before the completion of the 2019/20 season, as the realignment of their football calendar has resulted in a short break between seasons (in some cases, as little as three weeks).
In order to provide flexibility, and allow national associations to properly plan their football calendar, FIFA has allowed countries who follow a dual-year calendar to commence the first registration period for the 2020/21 season prior to the completion of the 2019/20 season, subject to certain conditions.
Firstly, the overlap of the first registration period between the end of the 2019/20 season and the 2020/21 season can only be for a maximum of four weeks. Secondly, during the period of the overlap, the transfer of a player between clubs is permitted but the player will only be eligible to participate in competitions for their new club in the 2020/21 season. The position is also the same for out-of-contract players.
It is understood that the transfer window in England will not open until the season ends on 26 July and it is not currently confirmed when the transfer window will close again.
Will the length of the transfer window change?
Article 6 paragraph 2 of FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players also confirms that the maximum duration of the first registration period is 12 weeks and the maximum duration of the second registration period is four weeks. The maximum duration of the combined registration periods is thus 16 weeks for each national association.
FIFA has confimed that there will be no extension to the first registration period and so in all cases, the first registration period shall have a maximum duration of 12 weeks.
In very limited circumstances, there is a possibility of national associations being able to have three transfer windows during a season such as where it wishes to split one of the two annual registration periods in two parts subject to the cumulative total not exceeding 12 or 4 weeks depending on the particular registration period.
Any other key regulatory or legal matters?
Article 5 paragraph 4 of FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players states that “Players may be registered with a maximum of three clubs during one season. During this period, the player is only eligible to play official matches for two clubs.”
In order to avoid any concerns that a player may inadvertently breach Article 5 Paragraph 4 as a result of the postponement of the current season and delayed commencement of the next season, FIFA has confirmed that players may be registered and play with a maximum of three clubs during the same season.
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