Recently through Crossfire FC vs. Tottenham Hotspur, DeAndre Yedlin’s solidarity payment case, which is under discussion at FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber (DRC), the Training Compensation and Solidarity Payment (TC&SP) discussion has be reignited.
In one of my earlier articles, “If I were the President of US Soccer …” my second advice to the president to be elected was: “I will ask my legal counselors to find a solution to the compensation fee and solidarity payment problem. Reading a lot of articles about this dispute, I am inclined to think that such a solution exists in our legal system. This is a critical step in removing the pressure of pay-to-play system on our player development system.” My first advice was for the president to be transparent -- which I happily see that President Carlos Cordeiro is following -- since I find the issue of rewarding youth clubs for their “products’ extremely important we should look at this subject once again.
Before we go any further let us define what Training Compensation and Solidarity Payment is:
Article 20: Training compensation: Training compensation shall be paid to a player’s training club(s): (1) when a player signs his first contract as a professional and (2) each time a professional is transferred until the end of the season of his 23rd birthday. The obligation to pay training compensation arises whether the transfer takes place during or at the end of the player’s contract. The provisions concerning training compensation are set out in Annexe 4 of these regulations.
Article 21: Solidarity mechanism: If a professional is transferred before the expiry of his contract, any club that has contributed to his education and training shall receive a proportion of the compensation paid to his former club (solidarity contribution). The provisions concerning solidarity contribution are set out in Annexe 5 of these regulations.
This is what FIFA’s Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players say. To make it easy for the reader to understand, Crossfire FC was entitled to a Training Compensation when Yedlin signed his professional contract with the Seattle Sounders and Crossfire FC was also entitled to solidarity payment since Yedlin was later transferred in 2015 to Tottenham Hotspur before the expiry of his contract. Why and if Crosssfire FC ever claimed Training Compensation from the Sounders is a question whose answer I do not have.
DRC still has not reached a verdict yet on Yedlin’s case. They are reviewing Tottenham’s defense. DRC could find that Tottenham shouldn’t have to pay anything simply because U.S. Soccer was out of compliance with FIFA statutes. If that is the case, the attorney of Crossfire FC Lance Reich says: “That means they were in non-compliance with FIFA player registration rules, transfer of minors across borders, youth records, ITCs (International Transfer Certificates).It opens a huge can of worms.” Reich says this can eventually lead to a “Nuclear scenario."
I disagree. First of all, even if DRC reaches such a decision, nothing will happen. Forget about the nuclear scenario Mr. Reich is trying to portray:
I have talked to various people and read numerous articles about why TC&SP are not implemented in the USA. Of all the articles I read, Miki Turner’s article is the most fulfilling. Anyway I came to the following two conclusions:
There are three parties -- other than U.S. Soccer -- involved in this dispute: Pro Leagues -- namely MLS and the USL -- youth leagues and MLSPU. The first two are important constituents in the National Council.
MLS until recently was not supporting the idea of implementing TC&SP. MLS initially thought that the possibility of TC might increase the contract value of the players and MLS never thought that MLS might be entitled to SP through their DA “products.” Now MLS has changed its stance. Don Garber recently said: “We are not, as a country, participants in solidarity and training competition. I think that probably has to change. We have to find a way that if that's going to happen, how do we at least get compensated for it. I don't know how we can justify making the kind of investments we've been making." What is interesting is that he referred to players as “products.” “I think the product that we're developing has become some of the most important assets that we need to start figuring out ways that we're either protecting or we're finding ways to get compensated for if we can't protect them or sign them." This approach is in line with the rest of the world but it is in a collision course with the youth leagues which view players (or their parents) as customers.
The youth leagues (USYSA, US Club Soccer, AYSO etc.) view players as customers in the pay-to-play model. Although some youth clubs like Crossfire FC can benefit from the application of TC&SP, those are few and far between. A great majority of the clubs are happy with the current system based on pay-to-play. They might be very reluctant to the implementation of TC&SP since it might challenge their status with the argument that a specific player cannot be compensated for its development through TC&SP since the parents or other parents paid for the cost of the development of the player. Right now, all Youth Leagues are concerned about the quantity of players in their leagues and they are competing against each other for a dropping number of registered players. The quality of the players is not their main concern since the system does not reward them for the quality. This is the dilemma U.S. Soccer is facing. So in implementing the TC&SP system, U.S. Soccer will not get their irrevocable and strong support.
The great majority of the adult teams do not have youth teams, unlike the rest of the world. So the adult leagues have no interest in any way with TC&SP.
The interesting and most challenging case is the stand of MLSPU. What is interesting is that in Europe -- especially in Western Europe -- where the labor union movement is very strong and where there is a strong player’s union -- FIFPro -- which is recognized by UEFA, arguments that MLSPU is raising against TC&SP are not vocal. Also some of the players currently involved in various disputes are not even currently MLS players. I am not a legal expert to challenge their legal positioning, but I know the following: One of the reasons that MLSPU is challenging the implementation of the TC&SP system is the low average salary of the MLS players compared to their European counterparts. The other one: MLSPU may not be looking too much ahead and see the benefits of the TC&SP down the road. TC&SP will help clubs to develop better products, better products mean a more competitive market and a more competitive market means better salaries for the MLS players.
U.S. Soccer has now one ally – MLS – one other party to convince – youth leagues – and one party to wrestle – MLSPU – to implement TC&SP. At this point. U.S. Soccer has chosen to wait for the developments. Unfortunately, unless a system –- whether it be TC&SP or other -- is defined to reward clubs for quality player development, the progress of the quality of soccer in the international scene will be slow and unpredictable.
This is a synopsis of where we stand with relation to TC&SP. I might offer some solutions next year on rewarding quality in the development of soccer players in and around TC&SP. Until then Happy Holidays!
Ahmet Guvener (email@example.com) is the former Secretary General and the Technical Director of Turkish FA. He was also the Head of Refereeing for the Turkish FA. He served as Panel member for the FIFA Panel of Referee Instructors and UEFA Referee Convention. He now lives and works as a soccer consultant in Austin, TX.