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FIFA approve guidance to extend season and contracts; delay transfers and new loan regulations

Maximum flexibility indeed

Coronavirus Illustration Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

In an official statement, FIFA have announced the adoption of new guidelines for the end of the 2019-20 season and the start of the 2020-21 season, including the extension of player contracts and loans, the delay of the transfer window, and the delay of the new international loan regulations that were supposed to come into effect this summer. While most of these are just technically guidelines, FIFA expects all members associations (MAs) to follow them.

As reported yesterday, FIFA’s going for “maximum flexibility” with their new regulations, to allow individual leagues to extend their seasons in a reasonable manner — though FIFA are not putting any maximum time limit on these potential extensions yet. This includes the ability to extend all player contracts (“agreements”), be they permanent or temporary, expiring or long-term.

The official proposal reads, in part:

i. Where an agreement is due to expire at the original end date of a season, such expiry be extended until the new end date of the season.

ii. Where an agreement is due to commence at the original start date of a new season, such commencement be delayed until the new start date of a new season.

iii. In the event of overlapping seasons and/or registration periods, and unless all parties agree otherwise, priority be given to the former club to complete their season with their original squad, in order to safeguard the integrity of a domestic league, MA competition and continental competition.

The last point would thus keep Hakim Ziyech at Ajax until the end of the 2019-20 season, whenever that may actually occur, and only have him join Chelsea at the start of the 2020-21 season, whenever that may actually occur.

Normally, this would’ve happened on July 1st, but the transfer window will now be pushed out to an as-yet undetermined date.

These delays include delays to any payments associated with the transfers.

iv. Notwithstanding the recommended amendment to agreement dates, any payment that contractually falls due prior to the new commencement date of an agreement should be delayed until the new start date of a new season or its first registration period.

FIFA obviously wants the leagues to have matching transfer windows as usual, and teams will continue to need to use the Transfer Matching System (TMS) and abide by all the usual regulations.

And while there’ve been some rumors about extending the window all the way through January, FIFA, at least for now, maintain that any transfer window may not be longer than a maximum combined length of 16 weeks — this is usually broken down as 12 weeks (summer) and 4 weeks (winter) — as laid out in the standard regulations (RSTP).

The official proposal reads, in part:

i. all requests for an extension of the current season finishing date be approved

ii. all requests to extend or amend registration periods that have already commenced be approved, provided that their duration complies with the maximum limit (i.e. 16 weeks) established in the RSTP

iii. all requests to amend or postpone registration periods that have not commenced be approved, provided that their duration complies with the maximum limit (i.e. 16 weeks) established in the RSTP

iv. MAs be permitted to amend season dates and/or registration periods, either within TMS or by otherwise notifying FIFA

v. and as an exception to article 6 paragraph 1 of the RSTP, a professional whose contract has expired or been terminated as a result of COVID-19 has the right to be registered by an association outside a registration period, regardless of the date of expiry or termination.

Last though certainly not least, especially as it wasn’t really reported before, FIFA have chosen to delay the introduction of the new international loan regulations/limits, which were going to reduce the number of loanees aged 22 and older to just 8, dropping to 6 the season after. Presumably this will be delayed by a year, though that’s just a guess.

Chelsea were already more or less compliant anyway, but this should allow some flexibility for teams in what is expected to be an economically depressed season.

On 27 March 2020, the Bureau considered postponing the entry into force of these new provisions until the current situation within the international football market is clarified. A final decision was made that, for the time being, the amendments regarding loans will not enter into force

There are a few other provisions in the new COVID-19 football regulatory issues release, including provisions for supporting players and teams affected by the pandemic — here’s the full PDF.

The specific implementation (i.e. dates) of the new guidelines is not yet known, but at least FIFA are making it feasible from their end to extend the 2019-20 season and still finish it in some way.

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