From Third-Party Ownership to Murky Transfers
In September of 2015, a website known as Football Leaks went live and almost immediately, controversy followed. The goal of Football Leaks is to shed light on the backroom dealings, controversial transfers and business agreements that often overshadow performances on the pitch. The website is operated semi-anonymously out of Portugal using Russian servers, with the only known operator going solely by John — who agreed to speak with The New York Times last month. In its most notable document release, Football Leaks published documents linking Dutch Club FC Twente to an investment firm called Doyen. The documents outlined agreements of TPO, or third-party ownership, in which Doyen loaned FC Twente $5.5 million in exchange for the economic rights to five players — including Dušan Tadic, who was later sold to England’s Southampton Football Club for over $16 million. Such dealings were legal at the time, though frowned upon, but are now outlawed by FIFA.
This past Saturday, Football Leaks posted the complete €50 million transfer agreement between French Ligue One’s AFC Monaco and England’s Manchester United for the wonder-teenager Anthony Martial. At the time of the transfer, Martial was only 19 years old. What was previously unreleased to the public were three clauses in the contract entitling Monaco to another 30 million euros if Martial makes the scoresheet 25 times (he currently has eight goals), makes 25 appearances for the French national team (he already has three caps) and if he is nominated for the Ballon d’Or (FIFA‘s player of the year) — none of which are out of the question. If he reaches these stats while at United, it would make him the fifth-most-expensive player in the world, aged only 20, surpassing Real Madrid’s James Rodriguez, who also came from Monaco.
For many of these clubs, billions of dollars are on the line. Most walk the straight and narrow, abiding by FIFA’s laws. Some, though, will do whatever it takes to achieve success and often operate outside of these laws. Football Leaks is helping to shed light on these deals and make the often cloudy world of soccer transfers and outlawed TPO dealings more transparent. Following the FIFA scandals with Sepp Blatter, the Greek football club Olympiakos FC scandal early last year and the infamous Italian match-fixing scandals of 2006, it is a welcome step to help the world’s most beautiful game become beautiful again — on and off the pitch.