Fifa is instituting a new online system in a bid to stamp out money laundering and other forms of corruption in the $1-billion market in international football transfers.
“This is a historic moment for football,” Fifa president Sepp Blatter said on Wednesday.
The new system becomes a requirement for 3 500 professional football clubs in nearly 150 nations today, after decades of poor oversight that have led to rogue agents “owning” their clients and controlling their destinies, illegal payments between clubs and companies, and even money laundering through transfers of fictitious footballers.
The monitoring concept is relatively simple. Clubs signed up to a web-based network are required to match the details of any international player transactions and upload proof of payment, identification of agents involved and other documents to confirm a player’s new employer.
Officials declined to say how many investigators they are assigning to look into transfers, but insist that stiff sanctions await clubs that break the rules, from warnings and fines to a deduction of points and even transfer bans.
If the buyer and seller provide differing information, the player can’t change teams.
All deals must be concluded before the transfer window closes, and Fifa has created an online clock to end the ambiguities over last-second agreements such as the one that sent Andrei Arshavin to Arsenal last year.
The Zurich-based body has been looking for years to find an effective way to better monitor and regulate player transfers, and eliminate the deluge of paperwork during peak trading times as clubs faxed details of their deals, sometimes with information that didn’t match.
The network went online in 2007 and most major leagues have been using it during the last couple of transfer windows.
From Thursday, every club will be required to log the details of each player either sold or purchased in an international deal or have the transaction blocked.
With a simple log-in password, Fifa staff and national football officials can inspect deals from anywhere and search for instances of foul play.
Fifa officials have previously described money laundering as possibly a “massive problem” involving transfers of imaginary players for cash, but identities must now be established for transactions to be licensed.
Third-party “owners” of players will see their power curtailed. Individuals such as Anglo-Iranian businessman Kia Joorabchian, who once controlled the “economic rights” to Argentine stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, can no longer hold up a transfer as they seek their own compensation.
And the new registry should make transfers far quicker, smoother and more transparent, proponents say.