International football transfer: Documents, bureaucracy & useful tips

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In order to be able to play official games, you have to be registered by the responsible association …

Although it sounds like a piece of cake, things can get complicated, especially when transferring from one club to another – and going abroad. Find out about the important things you should know when switching a club, especially on international level.

1. Don’t be late

Timing is very important. Set aside the fact that the best time to join a new club is at the very beginning of the new season’s training, it is also important (your agent, if you have one, should know, too) to know when it is even possible to change clubs. The registration periods can vary from association to association. You should also keep in mind that you can only change two or (in certain cases) three clubs in a season (season, not a year). You can learn more about that in FIFA’s Regulations on Status and Transfer of Players (III. Registration of Players; page 10).

2. Know the rules, don’t be left waiting

Bureaucracy can be very frustrating if you (or the people/clubs you are working with) do not know all the rules. To catch the registration deadline, your application for registration (if you are playing as a professional) must be submitted together with the contract to the governing association. It gets even more complicated when moving abroad. Although you may have completedall your own tasks (and caught all the registration deadlines), you may not be registered for a club outside the country you have played last, if the association you are transferring too hasn’t received the International Transfer Certificate from the association you are transferring from. With the help of FIFA’s Transfer Matching System things should be flowing more smoothly than they have been in some (less developed) associations in the past years.

3. Do you need a work permit?

Bureaucracy can be a big bother, not only sports one, but especially state bureaucracy (or a mix of both). EU citizens are – with freedom of movement for workers enforced there – probably among the most care-free people when it comes to this. But for “outsiders”, it can get much harder. In the United Kingdom, for instance, a non-EU player applying for a work permit must currently have a record of at least 75 percent of games played for his country in the last two years and his country must be (in the same time period) on average at least at the 70th place in the official FIFA World rankings over the previous two years. There have also been cases in other countries when players and clubs have been sanctioned for not having valid work permits – fines can be very high – so be sure to check that when moving to a country whose legal system you are not aware of. Some clubs have departments who take care about this for you, but it’s better to double-check.

4. Don’t hide your problems

Know The Destination Of Your Football TransferTransfers have fallen through as players failed to complete a thorough medical check-up in their new club. So if you have a problem, do not hide it, because sooner or later it will hit you like a boomerang. The best advice is not to hide your problems. If a club wants you, they will understand your condition and will probably even help you solve it as soon as possible. But if you (or you agent) want to be sneaky … well, you can take your chances, but be prepared to face the consequences. That may include immediate contract termination and even a further lawsuit.

5. Know your destination

If your travelling passport (it is important to have valid travelling documents) has for instance a stamp from Israel (even if you were there on holiday) and if you are pursuing a football career in Iran, that may be a big problem – you will be denied entry into the country (the problem can be fixed if you make yourself a new passport). The example may sound absurd, but it is here to illustrate the need to be aware of the customs and laws (written and unwritten) of countries you may move to as a football player. Think about where you are going: if nothing else, Google search your questions to get a clearer picture of where you are supposedly going to. You may not belong (in one way or another) to some places; sometimes the barrier can be as obvious as the language.

The point of this post was not to scare you from going abroad, but to encourage you and at the same time prepare you for some unpleasant surprises you may encounter en route. Remember that every problem has its solution. And don’t forget to keep an open mind!

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