Arsenal CEO Opposes Immediate Ban on Player-Rights Investments

Arsenal Chief Executive Officer Ivan Gazidis said he opposes an immediate European ban on investors acquiring player-transfer rights from teams because it would leave some clubs struggling financially.

The English Premier League banned the so-called third-party deals in 2008 after the transactions interfered Carlos Tevez’s transfer to Manchester United. Elsewhere in Europe, investors have acquired stakes in as many as 1,100 players worth as much as 1.1 billion euros ($1.5 billion), according to a report last year by auditor KPMG Europe LLP’s Spanish unit.

Investors get a return based on a player’s sale value after a trade. European soccer ruling body UEFA wants the sport’s governing organization to outlaw third-party ownership, and the regional group will enact its own rules out of “ethical” concern should FIFA not ban the practice, UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino told reporters last week.

“I am in favor of phasing this out gradually but we can’t do it straight away, we can’t throw clubs under the bus,’ Gazidis said after a meeting of the European Club Association in Barcelona.

Gazidis is an executive board member of the association, which represents 214 clubs. Champions League squads Atletico Madrid and Porto are among teams that have turned to selling stakes in team members to raise finance as banks in Spain and Portugal restrict lending.

UEFA’s Infantino told reporters in Nyon, Switzerland, he was opposed to the arrangements that FIFA is reviewing.

‘‘How can you trade the economic rights of human beings?” Infantino said. “We are not talking about cars or airplanes.”

Eastern Europe

The practice is widespread in 10 eastern European countries -- where investors hold about 40 percent of the market value of league players -- and is increasing in Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands, according to the KPMG report.

Real Madrid Vice President Pedro Lopez, another ECA board member, said European clubs can’t agree on the transactions and so the association is “neutral” on whether to ban them. He added he thought it would be difficult to wipe them out completely.

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