Is it illegal for a football club to approach a player directly who is under contract with another football club?

The contracting of football players

Currently under the FIFA Regulations regarding transfers an individual player will be owned by the specific club who holds the registration of that player. All players who play for specific clubs in the Football Association Premier in England will be registered with that particular club and will only be able to move to another club following the payment of a transfer fee.

Player power

Following various decisions concerning the movement of footballers from club to club in certain circumstances – most notably the decision in the Bosman case and the decisions regarding Article 17 of the FIFA Transfer Regulations – the power of players in enabling a move to be engineered to another football club is continually on the rise.

Furthermore the use of football agents in negotiating better deals for the football players which they represent has served to increase the power of football players.

The tapping up of players

An issue which has currently been experienced in English football over the last five years or so has been the issue of rival clubs tapping up football players who are under contract with another club.

Why does this occur?

Often footballers may wish to move away from the club which they currently play for in order to play for a better club and in most cases to earn themselves more money. Often a rival club will wish to attain their services and instead of going through the club which owns that player they will speak directly to the player.

Is this allowed to be done?

Currently under both the transfer rules established by FIFA and the Football Association followed by the clubs playing in England if another club wants to procure the services of a player that is registered with another club they must speak directly with that club and not to the player or his agent. The individual player and the agent who represents him will only be brought in for discussions with the potential purchasing club once the two clubs have agreed on a fee.

Why would a club wish to contact the player directly rather than the club?

Often a club wishing to get the services of a player from another club will contact the player directly as they may want a guarantee from that player that if a number of clubs enter a bidding war for that player he will sign with that particular club.

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For more information on:

  • What is the football agent’s role in all of this?
  • Why is it in the interests of the agent to do this?
  • Is it therefore illegal for agents to set up these kinds of meetings?
  • If it is clearly in breach of the rules governing football to do this, does it still happen?
  • What will happen if a player is caught meeting with another club in this fashion?
  • What are the likely sanctions to be imposed on the respective parties?
  • Could stopping football players talking to other clubs in this manner constitute a restraint of trade?