Alamy

2 March 2022 - 4:49 PM

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Alamy | Emma Snerle from West Ham United

Sports lawyer: Time to introduce training compensation in Women’s Football

  • There is no training compensation in women’s football when a player is transferred. Lawyer understands FIFA’s current position – but the time is right to make changes.
  • Calls are growing to address this lacuna and a FIFA task force is devising a solution.
  • Why it matters: The redistributive effects of training compensation can incentivize clubs to develop players.
  • The perspective: In men’s football, training compensation for a player can be substantial, something that could stymie the progress of the women’s game.

The question is not if, but when - women’s football needs training compensation.

Last month, sports lawyer Jes Christian Fisker made the point openly. He highlighted the transfer of 20-year-old Danish striker Emma Snerle from Fortuna Hjørring in Denmark to England’s West Ham, writing on social media that the Danish club “contributed to the player’s training, education and development for five years, but was not entitled to any kind of compensation.” 

Last year, MEP Antonius Manders asked the European Commission whether it agreed that this was disrespectful towards female football players?

In many ways, it was a cry for regulatory change from both Fisker and Mander.

Back in 2017, FIFA and secretary-general, Fatma Samoura wrote in a circular 1603 that “for the sake of legal security and transparency, art 20 of the regulations, which pertains to training compensation, now explicitly specifies that the principles of training compensation do not apply to women’s football.” 

The circular added that “the exiting training compensation formula would act as a deterrent to the movement of female players and consequently stall the development of the women”s game”.  

Photo:

Alamy | FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura

Fisker understands that FIFA has not moved forward with the introduction of training compensation because the substantial fees involved could scare clubs from acquiring new players and thus adversely affect the game’s growth, but Fisker does stress that the time is now to address the lacunae in the regulations.

“Danish clubs start to think that it’s a bit unfair that Snerle, top scorer in Denmark, a national team player, and a huge talent, could just move for free,” says Fisker.  

“A big club in the United Kingdom could easily pay some money for her - for her training and education over the years. The Women’s Super League clubs and other big clubs, I think, are happy that they can just get these players for free.”

“You have no rules at all. The training clubs, they get no money, when a player is transferred, and I think that maybe now time is that you could have some rules.” 

Lost best player

“As soon as possible”, agrees Jakob Borup, Head of Elite Football at Fortuna Hjørring, but with the caveat that “we ensure cooperation about the purchased player”.  

He says: “Let us introduce some easy and manageable rules. They must be based solely on making the training environments even better as well as the conditions for the players better.” 

A spokesperson from FIFA says that they are very much aware of the current regulations and situation regarding training compensation not being applicable for women’s football.

“We can therefore confirm that FIFA is currently prioritizing and taking steps to address this. In particular, the Professional Women’s Football Task Force (under the mandate of the Football Stakeholders Committee) is the group that is currently looking in detail at the topic of training rewards in women’s football, including key stakeholders across the women’s game. The Task Force had its first meeting on this topic in November 2020 and since then has held several meetings dedicated to the topic.”

At the time of circular1603, the world federation promised however to introduce an alternative in the women’s game. Five years on, the regulatory vacuum persists, but the growing transfer market in women’s football provides a clear incentive. 

The global governing body noted in their 2021 Global Transfer Report that transfer fees in women’s professional football increased by 72.8 per cent, from $1.2 million in 2020 to $2.1 million in the corresponding year, the top five transfers of the year generated 60 per cent of the income.  

There were 1,304 international transfers in 2021, an increase of 26.2 per cent compared to the previous year and the number of clubs involved in international transfers rising from 347 in 2020 to 414 last year, a 19.3 per cent increase. 

The last women’s transfer market in winter confirmed the growth trend with 42,8 percent rise in trading, a reflection of a robust ecosystem. In total, 257 international player transfers were completed in January 2022, an increase of 42.8 per cent compared to the January 2021 registration period with a total outlay of $487,800, according to FIFA’s snapshot of the January transfer window. 

Solidarity among clubs

Long and complex negotiations between European football’s main stakeholders and the European Commission dating back to 2001 prefaced the arrival of training compensation in the men’s game, an arrangement unique to football allowing for a transfer of wealth from elite clubs to those clubs who developed talent.

FIFA stated in Circular no. 769: “This system is designed to encourage more and better training of young football players, and to create solidarity among clubs, by awarding financial compensation to clubs which have invested in training young players.” 

The Women’s Super League clubs and other big clubs, I think, are happy that they can just get these players for free

The redistributive element of the training compensation is the crux: it manufactures solidarity between the clubs and encourages training, education and development.

“Clubs and the Danish FA tried to do a lot of work to improve the women’s league in Denmark,” explains Fisker.

“But that's difficult if the best players can just leave for free. There's no money in return to the further development of the Danish clubs.”

In the men’s game, training compensation and solidarity contributions amounted to $75,5 million in 2019 when the value of international transfer reached $7,35 billion. The transfer fees in the women’s game are still small, but too high a training compensation could alarm major clubs and instigate austerity from their side. 

“In the men’s game, you can pay $75,000 in training compensation per year,” says Fisker.

“A fair amount, that reflects the development of women's football, should be like one-third or perhaps half of the men's game depending on what national league the Player is transferred to.”

“I think that big clubs are ready to pay at least something for women's players. You just have to ensure that the amount of training compensation is not too high. The difficulty is to find the right balance so that you don't fix the amounts so high that you hinder free movement.”

That’s what the 2019 launched FIFA’s Professional Women's Football Task Force, including FIFPro, ECA and UEFA, is working on. The task force is addressing and finalizing a framework around a training rewards system for women's football.

“In order to ensure any future decision is based on solid research and analysis, as well as a clear understanding of the specifics needs of the women’s football environment, the FIFA Benchmarking Report - released in May last year - is part of the research that is contributing to the ongoing consultation process on training rewards for women’s football. In addition, data from the International Transfer Market System (ITMS) is being considered to define the approach that a potential training reward mechanism should have if implemented for women’s football,” the FIFA spokesperson says.
 
“The aim of this research-based approach is to make an informed decision on the topic to ultimately benefit and accelerate the growth and development of women’s football in a long-term and sustainable way. It is clear the women’s football requires a tailor made solution for training rewards that takes into account the specificities of the women’s football landscape.”

“It just helps us to become even better at succeeding with club changes and the development of all of our talents,” adds Borup. 

Lets show a new way in womens football.”