Maltese football witnessed a historic moment on Monday, June 8 when the Malta FA Council approved to abolish football parameters once and for all following an eight-year action plan to reach such decision. 

Prior to this historic milestone, under the then existing rules of the MFA, any club who wished to acquire the services of a player who was out of contract had to pay a parameter fee to the players’ previous clubs to secure such player, a principal which was in total breach of UEFA and FIFA regulations. 

The journey for abolishing football parameters across the world began more than 20 years ago thanks to the legal actions taken by than relatively unknown Belgian midfielder Jean-Marc Bosman who at the time was plying his trade with RFC Liege in the Belgian league. 

Bosman was approaching the end of his contact and was offered a deal with French second division team Dunkirk.

Prior to what famously became known as the ‘Bosman ruling’, a player could not change clubs at the end of his contract unless he was allowed to leave for free by his employer or his new club would have paid a fee to the player’s previous club.

Liege demanded an astronomical fee from Dunkirk to acquire the services of Bosman, a fee which could not be met by the French club and resulted with Bosman remaining with Liege together with a 75 per cent wage cut as a consequence of his actions. 

In 1995, following a five-year legal challenge initiated by Bosman, the European Court of Justice decreed a landmark judgement which found that the rules in force at the time concerning transfer of players were in breach of the free movement of workers as enshrined in the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union.

Such a ruling paved the way for a player to be allowed to leave a club on a free transfer as soon as his contract expired and prohibited clubs from blocking any moves or demanding any fees. 

Such a decision helped to change the face of modern football and allowed star players at the time, such as Sol Campbell, Robert Lewandowski and Andrea Pirlo, to move for free at the end of their contracts.

As a consequence to such drastic change, players started to demand huge signing on fees and salaries to make up for the loss of transfer fees, a situation which gave power to the richer clubs and made the poorer clubs only dream about signing top players. 

This inevitably also gave rise to the concept of football agents who in turn now obtain a cut from such signing on fees, whether from the club or player. 

Despite the Bosman ruling, and FIFA and UEFA also changing their rules concerning the transfer of players, up until recently the parameters system continued to exist in Maltese football. 

Players who found themselves out of contract were blocked from seeking pastures new due to thousands in parameter fees needing to be paid first, amounts which on most instances could not be met by clubs. 

Following years of calls to abolish such rules, FIFA allegedly sent a letter to MFA in July 2019 clearly outlining how the MFA’s retention of parameters goes against the world body’s principles and called for the MFA to either amend such rules or else bring them in line with the rest of the footballing world. 

Another key decision taken during the recent Council meeting concerned the abolishment of the nursery compensation rules, a system which previously meant that any amateur player wishing to change nursery for whatever reason had to pay a fee, sometimes even astronomical amounts, to be able to change nurseries/academies. 

Achievement 

These monumental achievements witnessed in Malta at the beginning of this month are thanks to the efforts of a key group of personnel and entities, spearheaded by the various administrators of the MFA over the past eight years, who always fought for such abolishment. 

Whilst some might have been opposed towards abolishing parameters in the beginning of the journey, it is satisfying to note that the Council could set aside their sporting rivalries and unite together for the good of the game by unanimously approving such an overdue decision.

Players are now at liberty to progress further in their careers when their contracts expire and youngsters are free to change nurseries/academies should they wish. 

One now hopes that the decisions taken will bear the fruits in the years to come to further improve the Maltese leagues as well as strengthen the Maltese national team. 

Dr. Robert Dingli is a sports lawyer and Associate at Dingli & Dingli Law Firm

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us