Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) today announced it would oppose the decision by Football Federation Australia (FFA) to prohibit A-League clubs and players from including transfer buy-out clauses in their A-League player contracts, saying FFA’s move undermines contractual stability in the A-League and threatens to block Australia’s elite young players from pursuing their dreams of one day playing for the world’s best football clubs.
PFA Chief Executive Brendan Schwab today said that the players’ union was very surprised by FFA’s move, which is at odds with the rest of the football world.

“Transfer buy-out clauses are an everyday part of professional football, and expressly permitted under Article 17 of the FIFA Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players,” Schwab said.  “They encourage clubs and players to sign long term contracts knowing that the player can transfer if an overseas club commits to pay an amount of compensation already agreed between the player and his A-League club.”

The PFA is determined to ensure that young Australian players better plan overseas moves in order to maximise their chances of succeeding at football’s highest levels in Europe.  A transfer buy-out clause is an important mechanism that helps achieve this end by allowing a player to move whilst financially rewarding his club.

According to PFA research, the first overseas move of a young Australian player is nearly always career defining.

“For 80% of players, their first overseas move is to the best ranked club of their career,” Schwab said.  “Further, only one in 12 players last more than one year at a top tier club.  So whilst many players are advised to work their way through Europe, our most successful players have got their first move right and transferred to a club which offers both an outstanding development system and playing opportunities.”

“In nearly all cases, these are the clubs in countries such as England, Holland and Germany which boast FIFA’s Category 1 ranking for player development.”

Schwab cited the offer from German giant Borussia Dortmund for Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Mitch Langerak as a possible deal that ticked all the boxes for player development and Australian football.  Melbourne Victory rejected the offer for Mitch, who does not have a transfer buy-out clause in his contract.

The PFA is of the view that FFA’s move to prohibit transfer buy-out clauses breaches both the FIFA Regulations for the Status and Transfer of Players and the A-League Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).  Accordingly, the PFA will be advising players and their agents to word buy-out clauses in strict compliance with Article 17.

“Should FFA refuse to register a player contract on this basis, the PFA will consider its options under both FIFA’s regulations and the CBA,” Schwab added.

Article 17 of the FIFA Regulations

According to the official FIFA Commentary on Article 17 of the FIFA Regulations:

“The parties may, however, stipulate in the contract the amount that the player shall pay to the club as compensation in order to unilaterally terminate the contract (a so-called buy-out clause).  The advantage of this clause is that the parties mutually agree on the amount at the very beginning and fix this in the contract.  By paying this amount to the club, the player is entitled to unilaterally terminate the contract…Whenever a player has to pay compensation to his former club, the new club…shall be jointly and severally liable for its payment. (page 47)”

FFA’s New Regulation

“9.1 A player contract between a Club and a Player must:

(f)  not contain any clause which limits the amount a Club can receive or request in relation to the transfer of the Player, including, without limitation, any clause which requires the Club to release or transfer the Player to another club if that club pays the Club a specified minimum transfer fee in respect of the Player…”