Pogba-gate ….. time for concern?

Pogba-gate ….. time for concern?

By Dan Chapman

Following the publication yesterday of leaked documents from Paul Pogba’s transfer from Juventus to Manchester United, FIFA have confirmed that they have asked (via their TMS system) for additional documentation.  This news has been reported as a ‘FIFA investigation’ in to the transfer, but should Manchester United fans be unduly concerned?

Not at this stage, I would suggest.  Firstly, the ‘FIFA investigation’ is hardly that – a cynic might say that the timing of this story was rather helpful to them, just as their Congress gathered for a stormy and controversial meet in front of the world’s media in Bahrain. Moreover, though, my reading of the situation is that FIFA’s interest will be limited to a very specific point.

At the stage a transfer is taking place the parties to the transaction have to upload various documents to FIFA’s Transfer Matching System (TMS) and one of those documents is submitted by the selling club (in this case, Juventus) and the departing player to confirm that no party has any interest in that player’s economic rights.  The hugely controversial subject of ‘third party ownership’ as it is better known.

Given the leaked documents have revealed that Juventus paid Pogba’s agent, Mino Raiola,  the not insignificant sum of 27 million Euros I consider it inevitable that FIFA will need to revisit what TPO documentation was submitted to them.  It is relevant to note that on a transfer it is quite rare for the selling club to pay the player’s agent  (who is almost always remunerated by the buying club or the player or both), and rarer still for the payment to be of such a monumental sum.  Those instances where agents have received substantial sums of money from the club that has sold their client tended to be, in the past, where the agent retained TPO of that client.  In South America and Portugal, in particular, it was commonplace for agents to have TPO rights in their clients.

The documents that have been leaked clearly show that Juventus paid Raiola in consideration for his services in procuring a transfer and creating a ‘bidding war’ for Pogba and they also clearly show that he had a contingent incentive to try and achieve a certain transfer fee, in order to earn more himself.   It is this structure, in my view, that FIFA will want to consider.  Firstly, they will be looking at whether all of the documents in place in the transfer (those that have now been leaked and more) were accurately submitted to the TMS,  including the document required asserting the non-existence of TPO.  Secondly, even if those documents were accurately submitted, they will want to consider whether ‘in reality’  the nature of the financial agreement between Raiola and Juventus amounted to the agent holding an economic interest in the player’s registration rights, such as to fall foul of the FIFA ban on TPO.

Whilst the sums involved were somewhat different, such a proposition would not be without precedent even within the UK.  In 2010,  Wycombe Wanderers and an agent were disciplined by the FA for having an agreement in place that saw the agent (Phil Smith) financially benefit when Wycombe’s player (Matt Phillips) was sold, as he ultimately was, to Blackpool.

If it were to be that FIFA established that Juventus’ arrangement with Raiola amounted to unlawful TPO, then it is Juventus and Raiola who would face sanctions – not Manchester United or Paul Pogba (just as it was Wycombe and Smith sanctioned in 2010, not Blackpool or Phillips).

So for now, Manchester United and Pogba can probably breathe easily. That Football Leaks, the mysterious website that is disclosing document after document, say there is more to come in regards to Pogba’s move to United, though, is perhaps another matter altogether…


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About Dan
The spearhead and Senior Partner of Full Contact, Dan is an experienced solicitor and advocate, with a specialist background in employment law and sports.

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