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Young slaves are ok says Uefa

In a week when FIFA president Sepp Blatter has called for greater freedom of movement for players, branding the practice of clubs holding players to their contract as 'slavery` UEFA has presented a document to the EU which contains a demand for precisely the opposite according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Uefa are seeking exemption from EU freedom of movement laws for young players tying, or put more dramatically after the current fashion, enslaving themselves to one club until 18. No matter how unhappy they might be at the quality of training they are getting, perhaps impacting on family decisions to move elsewhere, or simply taking the chance to get a better education - a right that exists in virtually any other sphere of education or training. It seems bizarre that the world and the European governing bodies should see and define slavery in such different terms.

On the surface there is some merit in what Uefa are seeking to do. Ostensibly it`s intention is to prevent richer clubs from stripping smaller clubs of their assets before they can extract full value for a player they have discovered and nurtured. Nobody could argue with that surely. But is this what is happening in practice?

Cardiff were happy to let a young player they had nurtured, Aaron Ramsey, go to Arsenal for £5m. They would have been just as happy to let him go to ManU or Everton for the same amount. Southampton were presumably just as content to let Walcott go for an initial £5m plus whatever add ons were agreed. They were also willing to let Bale go to Tottenham for a similar deal. Given their current financial plight Southampton might have been put into greater distress if they were prevented from doing these deals. Gillingham weren`t unhappy at taking £2.5m for a 15 year old player, Luke Freeman, who, no matter what promise he shows at that age, does not guarantee the same promise will be there 3 years or more later. If he does the reputed add on £2m based on him doing so will be gleefully accepted. A good each way bet for a club like Gillingham. Earlier Notts County were happy to take a similar amount from Arsenal for Jermaine Pennant. Deals that couldn't have taken place under the Uefa proposal.

Palace chairman Simon Jordan was less happy to see Bostock go to Tottenham for a fee set by the footballing authorities themselves but by and large this isn`t a problem between big clubs and small clubs. It is an issue between big clubs and big clubs. It`s about Fabregas going from Barcelona to Arsenal even though that deal was 5 years ago and has since been put into a different context with the Spanish judgement in respect of Fran Merida. Fabregas himself might well take the view that his career has progressed much quicker than it would have done had he spent 5 years in the shadow of Xavi. That he got where he wanted to go quicker because he was able to move. In his case whose interests should have been paramount - the club or the player?

The number of such players being taken from their academies against the will of the clubs is relatively small. When it does happen, as in the Bostock case, it is because of a difference in valuation rather than principle. It all comes down to the same vulgar issue of money every time.

It will be difficult to reconcile Uefa`s objective with EU law but in any event they would be better served trying to introduce something that meets the objectives of small clubs, big clubs and the young players themselves instead of pursuing some ideological obsession. Appealing to inveterate committee types but not really serving the game in any constructive sense. Even if it is an unlikely scenario at present should an English player seek to complete his education in France or Spain, Germany or Italy why should Uefa seek to prevent it? Who benefits if a youngster making a choice at 12 or 14 is told that he is stuck with his choice when the Fifa President is arguing that older players should be allowed to move if that is their wish. If that is true then how is child 'slavery` anymore acceptable?

If it`s about money, and we all know it is, rather than choice then give a developing club a life time share in any subsequent transfer fee for any player from their academy. Now I reckon Arsenal might do quite well out of that.

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The Journalist

Writer: Amos Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday July 13 2008

Time: 12:01PM

Your Comments (oldest first)

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FIFA and UEFA are contradicting each otherand themselves on a weekly basis now, this schizophrenia in the governing bodies has to be questioned. How can Bladder say one week that the 6+5 rule must come in, limiting player's prospects of movement, and then say players should be allowed tomove when and where they like the next week. Watching FIFA and UEFAs movements at the moment is a bit like watching a *****ed uncle dance at a wedding, it's embarrassing, cringeworthy and all the more galling because you know they're not joking.
Little Dutch
Report Abuse
13/07/2008 12:08:00

lol, Blatter thinks with his ass.
Report Abuse
13/07/2008 12:19:00

Let's see what they'd say when we get Bischoff from Werder on a free and probably some small compensation..!
Lou the Gunneress
Report Abuse
13/07/2008 16:57:00

Most protectionist and restrictive practices end up creating problems that would have been avoided if the bodies implementing them could only see themselves as 'enabling' rather than 'disabling'.
Report Abuse
13/07/2008 19:00:00

I see where UEFA are coming with this. Cases where 15-16 year old footballers are being signed by English clubs is increasing with every passing year and some of the continental clubs are suffering as a result. IMO something should be done about this, but not in the manner that UEFA has proposed above. A proper compensation package needs to be worked out. I do find the principle unfair that a club spends its resources on training a player, yet they are not compensated adequately for it. The share in any subsequent transfer fee seems like a good idea and UEFA needs to look at financial solutions rather than blocking the movement of these kids.
Report Abuse
13/07/2008 23:16:00

You forgot the lad Petrucci from Roma that we got this summer. Roma were far from pleased. (
Report Abuse
14/07/2008 14:37:00


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