BRUSSELS (AFP) – Little of the cash from huge football transfer fees finds its way to smaller clubs, which are ending up with fewer opportunities to make it into the major leagues, the European Commission said Thursday.
Picking up on unease at the dominance of superclubs such as Manchester United and Barcelona, a Commission study showed a growing imbalance compared to local clubs that is ultimately harmful to the sport.
Football clubs spend around three billion euros ($4 billion) a year on player transfers but very little of this money trickles down to smaller clubs or the amateur game, the study said.
Transfer fees trebled in the period 1995-2011 and spending including wages increased seven-fold, but most of that was accounted for by just a few top clubs, it said.
This situation increases “the imbalances that exist between the haves and have-nots as less than two percent of transfer fees filter down to smaller clubs.
“The level of redistribution of money in the game, which should compensate for the costs of training and educating young players, is insufficient to allow smaller clubs to develop and to break the strangle-hold that the biggest clubs continue to have,” it said.
EU commissioner for sport Androulla Vassiliou conceded it was up to the sport’s government bodies to set the transfer rules but insisted: “We need a transfer system which contributes to the development of all clubs and young players.”
The Commission study recommended there should be more controls over deals and called for a “fair-play levy” on transfer fees to help the smaller clubs.
It suggested a limit on the number of players per club, a review of the issue of “third-party ownership”, where a player is effectively leased to a club by an agent, and an end to practices which inflate transfer fees.
The study will be submitted to a meeting of the EU’s Expert Group on “Good Governance in Sport” at its next meeting in April, which will include FIFA, UEFA, the European Professional Football Leagues, European Club Association and the International Federation of Professional Football Players.
FIFA, which said it had provided extensive input on the study, issued a statement welcoming the report.
“While the detailed findings of the study will need to be fully evaluated, FIFA acknowledges with satisfaction that the majority of the proposals contained in the study are already being addressed in the current regulatory framework,” the association said.