FIFA has promised to ban third-party ownership of players globally within â€œthree or four yearsâ€, in the wake of pressure from Uefa and playersâ€™ unions to outlaw the practice.
The Guardian this week revealed how an internal Fifa report had found that third-party ownership trapped clubs in a â€œvicious cycle of debt and dependenceâ€ and posed risks to players and to the integrity of the game. Uefa, frustrated with Fifaâ€™s inaction, vowed to introduce new rules to tackle third-party ownership from next season if it refused to act.
Blatter first promised to ban third-party ownership in 2007 but following an executive committee meeting in Zurich on Friday, at which the matter was not officially on the agenda, he said a clear stance had been made.
â€œWe took a firm decision that TPO should be banned but it cannot be banned immediately. There will be a transitional period,â€ said Blatter. The Fifa president said a working group led by former FA chairman Geoff Thompson would be in charge of overseeing the introduction of new rules to outlaw the practice.
Typically, companies backed by unnamed investors take a stake of up to 50% in a player, with contracts usually requiring that they be sold within a specific timeframe. Sometimes the players themselves remain unaware of the arrangement while agents may have a stake in players they are representing. The Guardian reported this week that Jorge Mendes, the agent at the heart of the biggest deals in European football, was involved in an investment fund in apparent breach of Fifa rules.
Proponents claim it helps clubs buy players they would not otherwise be able to afford but the Fifa-commissioned study said it threatened the very fabric of the game. There are also concerns over possible links to match-fixing.
The Fifa secretary general JÃ©rÃ´me Valcke said it would be â€œthree or four yearsâ€ before TPO was banned outright, with a final decision on the timescale to be made public by next March at the latest. The move will have huge ramifications in Brazil, Argentina and Portugal in particular.
The Uefa president Michel Platini said the ban was â€œpositive news for player freedom and for the integrity and transparency of our gameâ€ and had faith in the working group to â€œeradicate TPO from football as soon as possibleâ€.
â€œI am very happy for football and I am very happy for players that Fifa has followed Uefaâ€™s initiative and recommendation to outlaw the practice of third-party ownership. I have been constantly warning for years that this practice â€“ which is becoming increasingly widespread â€“ is a danger to our sport,â€ said Platini.
â€œIt threatens the integrity of our competitions, damages footballâ€™s image, poses a long-term threat to clubsâ€™ finances and even raises questions about human dignity.â€
Meanwhile, Blatter rejected calls for a long awaited report by its ethics committee into the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to be made public.Michael Garcia, head of the investigatory arm of Fifaâ€™s ethics committee, has delivered his 350-page report into the controversial process that ended with votes for Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022.
Several Fifa executive committee members, and Garcia himself, have called for the report to be made public with redactions to protect the confidentiality of whistleblowers.
But Fifaâ€™s legal director, Marco Villiger, said: â€œThe principle of confidentiality is enshrined in the ethics code and if not perhaps certain witnesses or whistleblowers might not co-operate to the same extent if confidentiality is not guaranteed.â€
Blatter said it was up to Hans-Joachim Eckert, the head of the adjudicatory arm of the ethics committee, to decide whether to publish the report. Eckert is due to deliver his initial findings in November but has said it could be spring before final sanctions are published.
Blatter refused to clarify whether he had returned a Â£16,400 watch â€“ one of 65 handed out by the Brazil FA in June â€“ following an order by the ethics committee. He said it was a â€œnon-caseâ€ and its handling showed the effectiveness of Fifaâ€™s ethics committee.
The Fifa president also confirmed he would stand for a fifth term as president next May, despite having promised to make his current term his last.
He said: â€œI have announced to the executive committee that I will respect the demands and pleas of different associations and federations to serve Fifa for a fifth mandate if they are happy with me to be elected on 29 May next year.â€
Asked to explain his decision, Blatter added: â€œI am not finished. A mission is never finished.â€ – The Guardian