FIFA president Gianni Infantino backs transfer-market reform
ZURICH -- FIFA is evaluating a wide-ranging set of reforms to the transfer market that could impact everything from agents to commissions, youth development and transfer windows.
"For international transfers alone, we've seen some $6.4 billion circulating," FIFA president Gianni Infantino told ESPN FC in an exclusive interview. "This is double the amount just four or five years ago. You could say the system is healthy because there is lots of money. But the trend is worrying and that's why we need to act.
"That's $6.4 billion, transferred from one country to another, over a period of a few months. And at the same time, the commission fees paid to agents are increasing as well, to more than $500 million."
Infantino called for greater oversight and transparency in transfers and drew a parallel between the half billion paid in agent fees and the mere $60m paid to clubs in training compensation and solidarity payments.
Under existing regulations, every club a footballer played for, from the age of 12 until he turns professional, is entitled to a portion of any transfer fees paid until the player turns 23. But too often there is no effective enforcement mechanism to ensure these fees are paid, especially in the case of smaller clubs.
"A solution would be to simply say there is, for example, a five percent fee that has to be paid for solidarity and training compensation," Infantino said. "This five percent, which can be more or less, could be transferred to a central account and then FIFA or the confederations would redistributed to the clubs responsible for the players' training."
The FIFA president also called for more regulation in the activities of agents and intermediaries.
"I think the rise of commissions paid to agents has taken a worrying direction," he said. "And many agents agree with me and would like more oversight. It's also a question of football's ecosystem... today there are no rules in place. Anyone can do what he wants. But the reality shows us that there are risks of bribery, corruption and money laundering. It's not me saying it; there are many reports from government authorities that show this is the case."
Infantino backed a Premier League-led suggestion to shorten the transfer window so that it closes before the season begins.
"I'm very happy with the Premier League's proposal," he said. "I makes sense when you start the season to know what your squad is. And then you play the season with your squad. You [should not] be able to change one week, two week or months into the season and risk losing maybe your best player. It's not right. We have to protect the values [that] have made football what it is, [as well as the game's] integrity."
Infantino conceded that a winter window would still be needed and that coordinating transfer periods around the world would be difficult. But, he said, closing at the end of July, rather than the end of August, would "certainly be better than what we witness today."
Polarisation and the concentration of wealth among a select group of teams and leagues is also a concern.
"It's important to bring in some sporting rules such as squad size limits and limitations on loan players," Infantino said. "We all have an interest that the best players play and today with the concentration of the best in a few leagues [and clubs] this is not happening. We need to also look into homegrown player rules to find a competitive balance."
To those who argue that over-regulation could ultimately hurt growth and turn the game off to investors, Infantino cited the success of professional sports leagues in the United States. The NFL, NBA, NHL and MLS all have varying levels of salary caps.
"If we look at American sports systems, they are heavily regulated in commercial and sporting terms and this has not prevented them from being successful on the commercial side," Infantino said.
"Of course, there are many rules in U.S. sports that we cannot take to football. But we can think about [salary] caps of some sort and other sporting restrictions to make sure the talent is spread better."
Gabriele Marcotti is a senior writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.