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EU Commission considers salary and transfer fee cap

Wed 23rd Feb 2011 | Football Governance

EU Sport Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has described as "incredible" some of the recent multimillion pound transfer fees paid for professional football players.

In an interview with EurActiv, Vassiliou announced that the European Commission will look into the possibility of taking action, including capping fees.

"I am shocked by the recent transfer of Fernando Torres," she told EurActiv at yesterday's EU Sport Forum in Budapest, Hungary.

In January, Premier League club Chelsea broke the British transfer fee record when they paid £50 million to land Spanish international Fernando Torres from Liverpool.

Nevertheless, the Torres transfer didn't even come close to setting the European record. Indeed, it came hot on the heels of other exorbitant fees paid to acquire professional players. Spain's Real Madrid heads the ranking of record purchases having paid around £80 million in 2009 to buy Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United and £55 million the year before to secure the services of Brazil's Kakà from AC Milan.

The Lisbon Treaty gives the European Commission a mandate to promote "fairness and openness in sporting competitions". Fairness is definitely brought into question if a few clubs can spend on one footballer the same amount of money that other competing teams spend on the salaries of the entire team.

Moreover, a club's financial stability is often affected by these extraordinary outlays. "This will eventually lead from a smaller debt to a big debt, and then a bigger debt, and finally to a mess," Commissioner Vassiliou told EurActiv.

Adding, “that's why I support very much the financial fair play rules of UEFA. This will put into some order the governance of these clubs.”

UEFA, the European football federation, launched in 2010 its Financial Fair Play Regulations which requires football clubs to observe strict financial discipline, including a 'break-even' requirement from 2012 in an effort to penalise clubs with financial deficits.

Vassiliou announced that the Commission is looking into ways to integrate the regulations into the EU. One of the options on the table is to introduce a cap on transfer fees, and the EU executive is currently examining the legal basis for doing so.

The commission is expected to look at the viability of introducing a salary caps, but its capacity to act in this field is even more restricted.

“What we will propose to do is to conduct a study which will start next year.

“It will specifically be focused on the transfers of professional players. We will assess the extent of the problem and its implications.” Vassiliou continued.

"The Commission considers that the time has come for an overall evaluation of transfer rules in professional sport in Europe. It is difficult to find the legal basis, but there might be a way," a top Commission official told EurActiv during the EU Sport Forum.






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