Infantino: Let computers decide transfer fees

FIFA president Gianni Infantino has again raised the idea of setting football transfer fees by algorithm instead of clubs negotiating a market value price for contracted players at the governing body’s annual law conference in Tokyo on Friday.

The idea has existed for several years and Infantino refloated it amid a global transfer market that is now worth more than $10 billion annually.

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“Now more than ever it is fundamental for us to talk about these and other topics,” Infantino told football lawyers.

“For example, to discuss about the possibility to use an algorithm to estimate the fair value of transfer fees in order to increase transparency in the transfer system and help the football stakeholders.”

It is unclear how a FIFA-approved method of setting fees would be accepted by clubs who would have their selling options limited, or how it would comply with competition law in the European Union (EU).

A ruling from the EU’s court of justice in Luxembourg in the Super League case six weeks ago did not give football bodies UEFA and FIFA the total victory they wanted for their regulatory power.

FIFA’s interest in a price-setting algorithm has aired occasionally since it set up a transfer task force in 2017 reporting to a committee that included delegates from clubs, leagues and player unions. No proposal followed.

That same year, a record transfer deal was agreed that still stands — the €222 million ($241m) Paris Saint-Germain paid Barcelona for Brazil forward Neymar.

Weeks later, Kylian Mbappé also joined PSG from France’s then-champions Monaco in a deal valued at about €180m ($196m). No other transfer fee paid since has come close and PSG could get no fee at all if Mbappé leaves as a free agent when his contract expires in June.

FIFA spends millions of dollars each year helping fund a masters course and football research unit at the University of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, which says it has worked on a transfer value algorithm since 2010.

The International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) puts values of at least €250m ($272m) on Real Madrid’s Jude Bellingham and Vinícius Júnior, plus Manchester City forward Erling Haaland. The ranking assumes valuations for players if they have at least three years left on their contract.

The CIES research method weighs factors including the player’s age, length of contract and international record, and the context of their clubs and global economy.

Lower values are placed on the top-ranked players judged by the football industry website Transfermarkt.

Bellingham, Haaland and Mbappé currently have market values of €180m ($196m) with Transfermarkt — a difference of tens of millions compared to the algorithm.

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