In a previously undisclosed investigation, FIFA legal documents reviewed by The Associated Press revealed the global governing body’s concerns about the terms of the 2018 departures of Chuba Akpom to Greek club PAOK Thessaloniki and Joel Campbell to Italian side Frosinone Calcio. Arsenal would receive a bigger cut of the deal if Akpom and Campbell were subsequently sold to British clubs.
Arsenal placed sell-on clauses in the contracts to ensure it would receive 40% of the fee if Akpom was sold to a British club but only 30% from any other team. Frosinone was also given an incentive to not later sell Campbell back to a British club as 30% of the fee would have to be paid to Arsenal. But the London club would receive only 25% of the transfer fee if Campbell was sold to a club elsewhere.
Arsenal entered “release permanently” into the Transfer Matching System and the discovery of details of the sell-on clauses led to FIFA’s global transfers and compliance department opening an investigation into Arsenal in January.
The FIFA disciplinary committee then found Arsenal to be in violation of the rules for entering into contracts enabling it to influence other clubs and for failing to declare data in the TMS. “The committee considers that, by the mere existence of these clauses, Frosinone and PAOK FC are influenced by Arsenal in employment and transfer-related matters,” FIFA disciplinary committee member Thomas Hollerer wrote in the verdict document.
“The committee considers that the relevant clauses undoubtedly grant Arsenal the ability to influence in employment and transfer-related matters the independence, policies and the performance of PAOK FC and Frosinone’s teams.”
Arsenal told FIFA the transfer terms did not enable it to influence any transfer decisions by PAOK or Frosinone and said the English Football Association and Premier League were satisfied there was no breach of third-party influence rules.
“It is evident that in a scenario in which PAOK FC and/or Frosinone receive two similar and/or identical offers for the transfer of the relevant players, one being from a club in the United Kingdom and the other one coming from a club outside the United Kingdom,” Hollerer wrote, “PAOK FC and Frosinone would be more inclined to accept the offer coming from the club outside the United Kingdom, as it would make the operation most profitable from a purely financial point of view.”
Details of the case have emerged only after the completion of the legal process at FIFA. Campbell, meanwhile, transferred from Frosinone on Thursday after making a loan move to Mexican club Leon permanent. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Hollerer is general secretary of the Austrian Football Association. The disciplinary committee panel also featured Togolese Football Association president Kossi Guy Akpovy and Mahmoud Hammami of Tunisia.
Arsenal was told by FIFA that “should such infringements occur again in the future, the committee would be left with no other option than to impose harsher sanctions.” Simon Leaf, the head of sports law at London-based Mishcon de Reya, said it was a “pretty surprising decision” given the prevalence of sell-on and buy-back clauses in transfers and that it “will have an impact on how future deals are structured.”
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