Friday, 23 July 2010

FIFA to regulate Kosovo transfers

This article appeared in yesterday's issue of Soccer Business World

The Football Federation of Kosovo (FFK) will be allowed to issue international transfer certificates for all the players transferred to and from Kosovar clubs in a breakthrough for the former Yugoslav republic.

Kosovo has been lobbying for international recognition since declaring independence in February 2008. All but five European Union countries accept Kosovan independence but the FFK needs their country to be a member of the United Nations before being accepted into UEFA and FIFA.

This has isolated Kosovo and players are being poached by clubs that do not have to follow FIFA’s rules but that is about to change. “The FIFA have signed a so called contract with KFF for these cases,” a source close to the talks told SBW. “For the first step they have invited secretary general [Eroll Salihu] for an up-coming workshop of [the] transfer matching system (TMS) of FIFA. Although, this have been done on the good will of FIFA for the Kosovar players, this have been considered as the first step of the full membership of KFF in near future by the KFF president, Fadil Vokrri. KFF have signed the contract and after the FIFA signed it, there will be some 60 days to take effect.”

A second request to permit the national team of Kosovo to play friendlies was not passed. FIFA insist that the move is not a precursor to recognition for the FFK. “The [FFK] wishes to be admitted as a member of FIFA and UEFA as soon as possible, but is aware and recognises that membership is not possible at this moment in time,” a FIFA spokesperson told SBW.

“In view of its duty to prevent methods and practices, particularly in association football, that might jeopardise the integrity of matches or competitions or give rise to abuse of association football, FIFA granted to football clubs that belong to the Football Federation of Kosova the right to invoke the relevant provisions of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players in relation to the maintenance of contractual stability between professional players and clubs in connection with the transfer of players to a FIFA member association and to request adjudication from the competent FIFA bodies according to the applicable regulations.

"This means that clubs belonging to the FFK undertake to comply with and respect the relevant provisions of the aforementioned Regulations as well as the relevant procedural rules. Furthermore, clubs belonging to the FFK expressly recognise the right of clubs belonging to FIFA member associations to lodge claims against them with the pertinent FIFA bodies or to request any investigations that may result from the application of the above-mentioned Regulations. In summary, the clubs belonging to the FFK were granted the rights in relation to the maintenance of the contractual stability, but must also assume the respective duties.

"Finally, it is important to emphasise that the FFK confirmed that it is aware and recognises that from the above-mentioned agreement there is nothing from which a favourable view of its wish to join FIFA and UEFA can be inferred.”

FIFA tried late last year to bring together the associations of Serbia and Kosovo in Zurich but this failed after officials from Belgrade pulled out. Serbia’s football association had confirmed on 3 November that the president of the association, Tomislav Karadzic, would talk with representatives of the football association of Kosovo but Serbia told FIFA five days later that its representatives would not attend.

In a letter to FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke, the Serbian FA wrote: “Regarding your call to the meeting, we would like to inform you that talks on the issue have been held with all the relevant figures within the Serbian FA. According to the stances, which were expressed on the issue during the talks, we inform you that we are unable to accept the invitation for the proposed meeting.”

The issue of transferring players from Kosovo was due to go to a vote of the FIFA executive committee in December but no progress was made. The European Parliament recently called on the last five EU member states yet to recognise Kosovo's independence to comply but European Parliament members admit nothing will happen before an International Court of Justice ruling on the legality of Kosovan independence this summer.

So far, 69 countries recognise Kosovo, including the US and most EU member states with the exception of Spain, Cyprus, Greece, Romania and Slovakia. Cyprus, divided since the Turkish invasion in 1974, rejects Kosovo's declaration of independence owing to its stance on territorial integrity and the lack of UN approval. It is backed by Greece, while Spain – which has its own regional tensions – cites lack of respect for international law as justification for its opposition. Romania, home to an ethnic Hungarian community in 'SzĂ©kely Land' that is pushing for a higher level of autonomy, and Slovakia, with its own significant Hungarian minority group, have also rejected the legality of Kosovo's secession from Serbia.