Wil is working as a lawyer since 1980. He
started his legal career at Rechtshulp Rotterdam. Later on he worked for the
Dutch national trade union FNV and law firm Varrolaan Advocaten. Currently he
is participating in the Labour Law Section of lawfirm MHZ-advocaten in Schiedam
in the Netherlands. He is also a member of a joint committee advising the government
in labour issues.
Since 1991 he is dealing with the labour issues
of the trade union for professional football players VVCS and cyclists’ union
VVBW. Since 2002, he works for FIFPro, the worldwide union for professional
football players based in Hoofddorp in the Netherlands. He is involved in many
international football cases and provides legal support for FIFPro members all
over the world. Wil was also involved in the FIFPro Black Book campaign on
match fixing and corruption in Eastern Europe.
On the 2001
agreement between FIFA, UEFA and the European Commission:
What was FIFPro’s role in the
negotiations leading to the 2001 agreement
with the EU Commission on which the current FIFA Regulations on the Status and
Transfers of Players (RSTP) are based?
the negotiations started between the Commission and FIFA/UEFA. Later on FIFPro
joined as the Commission found it necessary to involve the players. From then
on FIFPro was at the table and able to have influence. It proved not to be the
level of influence we hoped to have.
To what extent was FIFPro (dis)satisfied
with the agreement at that time?
outcome of the negotiations was a compromise but to a certain extent acceptable
for FIFPro as it was to improve in principle the situation of players. At that
time, it seemed that free movement was accessible for them. Yet, the fact that
the Commission did not subsequently evaluate the system - as agreed in 2001 - was
On the current
Why is FIFPro challenging
the FIFA RSTP under EU Competition law? What has changed?
a short while since 2001 we concluded that the way the informal agreement with
the Commission was formulated in the RSTP was not consistent with what had been
agreed. The clearest example is the repetition of the protected period after a
contract was extended.
parties agreed on a single protected period after a player signed his first
contract with a club in order to preserve the stability of club squads and to
allow them to amortize the investments made on acquiring these players. After
this period the relation between a club and a player was intended to be a
regular labour relation.
several occasions the Commission confirmed that after the protected period the
compensation to be paid in case of premature termination would be calculated based
on the residual value of the contract. As the protected period re-starts in
case of contract renewal, players never reach this situation. Players who
refuse to sign a new contract are regularly side-lined by their clubs in order
to force them to sign a prolongation. This is limiting the freedom of movement of
players significantly and has substantial anti-competitive effects.
More precisely, are you
challenging specific articles of the FIFA RSTP? If so, why do you deem those
provisions in particular to have an anti-competitive effect or object?
evaluating the RSTP internally, FIFPro identified twenty-three key issues on
which the transfer system was failing the players. As we decided to lodge a
complaint on an EU competition law basis, we picked out the strongest arguments
for the purpose of substantiating our complaint. The repetition in the
protected period is an example.
Could these alleged
anti-competitive effects not be justified along the lines of the Wouters test
as being inherent to the achievement of legitimate objectives such as competitive
balance or contractual stability?
is important to notice that there is no transfer system in other sports and they
seem to work fine. This means that a transfer system is not a necessity as
such. The abuses we witness nowadays, especially non-payment of players is a
direct consequence of the way the system works. We strongly believe that the
restrictive effects are not inherent in the pursuit of any objectives. They
certainly are not proportionate to them. FIFPro is convinced that the restrictive
aspects of the system do not pass the Wouters
What is the rationale for going to
the EU Commission and not, for example, to the national courts (or national
competition authorities for that matter)?
of all it was the Commission that initiated the process towards the new
regulations in 2001. Now that we see the system failing it seems logical to
approach the Commission first. As we are looking at a pan-European problem this
forum would be more effective than national proceedings. But in case the
complaint does not provide an appropriate result the way to national courts and
national competition authorities is still open.
Did you envisage some
non-confrontational strategies to change the FIFA RSTP through negotiations?
What about using the European social dialogue committee for example?
initial Social Dialogue meetings started eleven years ago. Although we
concluded an autonomous agreement in 2012 we must conclude that the most
serious problems for our players have not been solved through this mechanism nor
have they been successfully tackled through our participation in the working
groups and committees of FIFA and UEFA.
problem of overdue payables is more serious than ever before. FIFPro feels that
more pressure is needed to move things forward. The fact that we lodged the
complaint does not mean that we stop negotiating. On the contrary, if our
counterparts in the social dialogue are willing to solve the issues we put on
the table we would prefer this over a long-lasting legal struggle.
Finally, don’t you think that this
complaint could lead to a form of European imperialism? In other words,
European institutions, clubs and players dictating the transfer system applied worldwide?
Should (and could) FIFA (or UEFA) aim for a different European transfer system
we are a global organization we cannot deny the fact that the center of gravity
of professional football is in Europe. Moreover, after the Bosman ruling it was
obvious that the new FIFA regulations had to be in full compliance with EU-law
principles. As these rules apply worldwide this means that EU-principles must
be respected around the world. As EU law provides generally more protection to
workers than a lot of other legal systems in the world the players benefit from
this extraterritorial application. FIFPro does not consider this as
imperialism. In fact, we believe that a single system is preferable because of
the global character of professional football.