Recently, AS Monaco were able to acquire the services of Joao Moutinho and James Rodriguez, two of Porto’s finest talents who had been linked to several top European clubs. The move surprised many people as even though Monaco’s recently-acquired wealth meant that they would certainly be able to afford them, no one expected the players to so willingly go to a club who had just been promoted to France’s top tier.
The easiest assumption to make is that they were tempted by the massive amounts of money on offer. Fair enough. However, a closer look at both players’ financial situations reveals that they were both partially owned by third parties.
For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of third-party ownership, it basically means the ownership of a player’s economic rights by sources such as football agents, sports-management agencies or other investors. The main reason it is a common practice in football is to share the burden of financial investment in a player.
Pini Zahavi, a well-known football agent, describes it as such; “It’s easier to buy a player who you are unsure about for £10m if you are sharing the risk with a partner. Now, if the player becomes top-drawer and is sold for £30m, then of course you may feel stupid only to own half. But if the player turns out to be merely average or a failure, if he cannot even be sold, you will say, ‘Fantastic, the disaster was not only mine’. That’s exactly the way it works.”
Unfortunately that’s not quite how it works.
Third-party ownerships have caused football clubs a few problems. The best example of a controversy regarding third-party ownerships is, of course, the double transfer of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano to Premier League club West Ham United. Hammers fans thought they had pulled off the coup of the century when they somehow landed 2 Argentine internationals from Corinthians; instead, the club ended up paying a fine of £5.5M to the Premier League after it turned out that the players were actually entirely owned by third parties and that the club had flouted certain regulations during the transfer. Both Tevez and Mascherano eventually moved on from the club.
Most players who are owned by third parties appear to have little or no say regarding their future. The claim that third-party ownership is done merely to share the financial burden of a player is true enough, but it is almost akin to selling your soul to the devil. The third party rarely have the best interests of the players at heart and are only investing in the player to earn a profit from any potential transfer. Naturally they will be keen to ensure that the player is sold only to the highest bidder in the event of a transfer.
FIFA regulations prevent the interference of third-party owners in player affairs. According to Article 18 of FIFA’s Rules on the Status and Transfer of Players, “No club shall enter into a contract which enables any other party to that contract or any third party to acquire the ability to influence in employment and transfer related matters its independence, its policies or the performance of its teams”. Given the amount of money both clubs and third parties stand to earn from big-money transfers and the number of such transfers that take place involving players owned by third parties, it’s safe to say that the third party almost always influences player transfers.
Instead of choosing to merely limit the practice, FIFA should look to ban it altogether. Not only will it make it easier for clubs to negotiate transfers, it will also ensure that the player has a say in where exactly he wants to go. Third-party ownership of players comes across as nothing but a glorified and legal form of pimping and the sooner FIFA ban it, the better it will be for the players and the sport in general.
Written By Shayne Dias