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On Thursday, FIFA published a new document titled “COVID-19: Football Regulatory Issues” to respond to the main problems and questions relating to the resumption of league competitions from a regulatory and legal standpoint.

After FIFA published the first version of the document in April with some guidelines and recommendations for the football sector in view of the COVID-19 crisis, it has held meetings with the main industry stakeholders (member associations, confederations, the European Club Association, etc.) to debate and agree measures, particularly on one of the most sensitive aspects — previously highlighted in this blog — deriving from resuming competitions, namely, the transfer system and registration periods.

FIFA has therefore included a series of frequently asked questions in the document, resulting from the stakeholder consultation process. It reiterates that it expressly urges all parties to extend contracts until the new season end date. However, it again points out that FIFA does not have the authority to amend contract terms, which are governed by each country’s national labor law. Therefore, naturally, it again proposes the desirable solution but cannot resolve the problem of contracts expiring before the now resumed competitions end.

FIFA has also published a series of temporary amendments to the Rules Governing the Procedure of the Players’ Status Committee and Dispute Resolution Chamber. The world governing body has decided to “relax” some aspects of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (“RSTP”) for the 2019/2020 and 2020/2021 seasons. 

Specifically, in view of the possibility that a player might involuntarily breach Article 5.4 of the RSTP, which provides that players can be registered for a maximum of three clubs and play for two in the same season, FIFA is extending the rule to allow players to be registered and play matches for a maximum of three clubs during the same season.

Furthermore, to prioritise clubs completing the 2019/20 season with their original squads, to offer greater flexibility and allow member associations to plan the calendar, FIFA is allowing member associations whose seasons take place over two different years (as is the case with La Liga and the main European league competitions) to start the first registration period for the 2020/2021 season before ending the 2019/20 season if they meet some conditions:

  • the first 2020/21 registration period overlaps with the last matches of the 2019/20 season by at most four weeks;
  • during that overlap period of four matches, players can move between clubs and out-of-contract players can be signed. In both cases, these players will only be authorized to play in national competitions pertaining to the 2020/2021 season.

Finally, to alleviate the economic impact on the parties in view of possible disputes before FIFA’s dispute resolution bodies, it determines that (i) for any claim lodged between June 10, 2020 and December 31, 2020 (both inclusive), there will be no requirement to pay an advance of costs and no procedural costs will be applied, and (ii) for any claim lodged prior to June 10, 2020 that has yet to be decided, the maximum amount of the procedural costs will be equivalent to any advance of costs paid.

In conclusion, FIFA is attempting, as far as permitted under the current “public/private” system, to mitigate the problems that the pandemic has generated with the halting and subsequent resumption of competitions but it has been unable to solve the most important risk, as we have repeatedly stated in this blog, which would affect the possible resumption of competitions. That is, players refusing to compete in the remaining matches of the “restarted” leagues after their original contracts with their clubs expire. This could therefore clearly affect the final outcome of the competition.

Author: Lidia Margareto

This post is also available in: Español

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lidia.margareto@cuatrecasas.com