The coronavirus pandemic, also known as COVID-19 is tearing up the world of football just like it is doing to other sectors of human lives. Everything and almost everyone is affected in one way or the other.
But the world football governing body FIFA would not sit back and allow the pandemic to make a total mess of the beautiful game of football.
So, from March 18, top FIFA officials have been having different degrees of consultations with representatives of clubs, players, leagues, national associations and confederations to fashion out a way forward.
The areas of interest in the consultations were how to iron out the contracts of footballers that were meant to expire at the end of the outgoing season which has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And the issue of transfer windows.
Hence, at the end of the consultations on Tuesday, April 7, 2020, FIFA came to a conclusion that transfer windows in every league should be moved and contracts should be extended until the season ends.
However, when the season will end is obviously not under the control of FIFA as that depends on when the current pandemic ends.
COVID-19 has Changed Factual Circumstances of football
FIFA president Gianni Infantino said on Tuesday: “The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly changed all the factual circumstances around football for this season.
“So, FIFA, together with the stakeholders, has come up with some practical ideas and proposals to tackle these new circumstances.
“Whilst this will not solve each and every problem, it should serve to bring a measure of stability and clarity to football for the foreseeable future.
“One thing must be clear to everyone, especially now: health comes first, well before football.”
Below is a summary of the main guidelines approved, which FIFA both hopes and expects will be followed around the world.
Expiry and commencement of player contracts:
Expiring player contracts usually end when the season ends, with a termination date that coincides with the end of the season. With the current suspension of play in most countries, it is now obvious that the current season will not end when people thought it would. Therefore, it is proposed that contracts be extended until such time that the season does actually end. This should be in line with the original intention of the parties when the contract was signed and should also preserve sporting integrity and stability.
A similar principle applies to contracts due to begin when the new season starts, meaning the entry into force of such contracts is delayed until the next season actually does start.
Football employment agreements that can no longer be performed:
The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly had a major impact on the revenues of clubs, not least since matches cannot be played. Football, like other sectors of the economy, has to find fair and equitable solutions tailored to these circumstances, hopefully with a view to protecting jobs and achieving a fair and reasonable balance of interests between players and clubs.
Accordingly, FIFA strongly encourages clubs and players to work together to find agreements and solutions during the period when football is suspended.
While it is primarily up to the relevant parties at the national level to find solutions to fit the circumstances in their own country, FIFA recommends looking at all aspects of each situation in an even-handed manner, including what government measures are there to support clubs and players, whether pay should be deferred or reduced and what insurance coverage may exist.
If parties cannot agree and, as a consequence, cases come to FIFA, the factors to be examined will include the following: whether there was a genuine attempt by the club to reach an agreement with the players; what the economic situation of the club is; the proportionality of any adjustment to player contracts; the net income position of players after any contract adjustment; and whether players have been treated equally or not.
In this way, FIFA hopes that it will be able to find solutions that are fair and balanced for both sides.
Football Transfer Windows
With regard to transfer windows, again, it is necessary to adjust the normal regulatory position to the new factual circumstances. Accordingly, FIFA will be flexible and will allow the relevant transfer windows to be moved so they fall between the end of the old season and the start of the new season.
At the same time, FIFA will try to ensure, where possible, an overall level of coordination and will also bear in mind the need to protect the regularity, integrity and proper functioning of competitions, so that the sporting results of any competition are not unfairly disrupted.