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Fifa, FIFPro form $16m ‘safety net’ for unpaid players

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Fifa has joined forces with FIFPro, the global union for footballers, to launch a $16m (€14.7m) fund designed to provide an “important safety net” for players who fall victim to clubs defaulting on their wages.

The Fifa Fund for Football Players (Fifa FFP) was unveiled today (Tuesday) and aims to provide financial support to players who have not been paid and have no chance of duly receiving the wages agreed with their clubs.

Fifa has set aside $16m for the fund up to 2022, with $3m allocated in 2020 and $4m apiece in 2021 and 2022, plus a further $5m for the retroactive protection of players’ salaries for the period between July 2015 and June 2020.

Fifa said several recent reports – including FIFPro’s own 2016 Global Employment Report: Working Conditions in Professional Football – have attested to the proliferation of cases involving the non-payment of players’ salaries across the world. Indeed, FIFPro estimates that around 50 clubs in 20 countries, mainly in Eastern Europe and Asia, have folded in the last five years, leaving players without pay.

Fifa last year revised its Disciplinary Code, enhancing the framework for dealing with the non-payment of players’ wages, particularly in situations featuring so-called sporting successors of debtor clubs, or new clubs formed with the prime aim of avoiding paying players their overdue salaries.

Fifa FFP, which is set to become operational on July 1, envisages the establishment of a monitoring committee composed of Fifa and FIFPro representatives to process, assess and act on applications for grants from the Fund. However, Fifa has stressed that these grants will not cover the full amount of salaries owed to players.

Fifa president Gianni Infantino said: “This agreement and our commitment to helping players in a difficult situation show how we interpret our role as world football’s governing body. We are also here to reach out to those in need, especially within the football community, and that starts with the players, who are the key figures in our game.”

FIFPro president Philippe Piat added: “More than 50 clubs in 20 countries have shut in the last five years, plunging hundreds of footballers into uncertainty and hardship. This fund will provide valuable support to those players and families most in need.

“Many of these clubs have shut to avoid paying outstanding wages, immediately re-forming as so-called new clubs. FIFPro has long campaigned against this unscrupulous practice and thanks Fifa for combating it in its Disciplinary Code.”

Roy Vermeer, head of FIFPro’s legal department, told the Reuters news agency that players caught up in such situations are often from Africa or South America, struggle to find new clubs and are forced to return home.

“The players are left with nothing and they then have to go out and find a new club, which is not easy because in these cases they are usually not top level players, they are always going from contract to contract,” he said. “In some cases, they will have been to three clubs in a row where they haven’t been paid.”

Commenting on the practice of sporting successors of debtor clubs, Vermeer added: “You have cases where the club goes to an amateur league for one season, they win it comfortably, they are promoted to the second division the next year, and then first league again.”