Author: Brendan A. Bailey
FIFA banned the practice of third-party ownership, the division and sale of a portion of a football player’s economic rights to an outside investor, in 2015. The ban was nondiscriminatory, applying to all types of third-party ownership utilized throughout football. Since then, the practice has all but disappeared internationally, with FIFA quashing occurrences of the practice through large fines and other forms of punishment. FIFA’s move to ban the practice came shortly after pressure from leagues that banned it years before—principally the English Premier League, one of the most influential leagues in Europe. However, such a ban was largely propped upon a report completed by the International Centre for Sports Studies that provided questionable conclusions. The disclaimers provided alongside the conclusions of the report would lead any reasonable person to conduct further research on the subject before instituting such an aggressive ban.
FIFA’s ban runs counter to European Union law, butting against decisions from the Court of Justice of the European Union, European Union articles and agreements, and even certain countries’ independent legal codes. This Note hopes to pull the wool away from football supporters’ eyes and perhaps mobilize a group of legally conscious scholars to bring action against FIFA to force compliance with EU law. Beyond that, this Note proposes a new regulatory regime to replace FIFA’s complete ban. Such regime would permit one type of third-party ownership (financing TPOs, used primarily by clubs with struggling balance sheets) that would fully comply with EU law and likely receive deference from EU entities due to FIFA’s stance as an expert within its market sphere.