Chapter 13The Baur au Lac

Finally, after 10 months of exhaustive research, the report FIFA had commissioned on the involvement of funds in the transfer market landed on the desk of president Sepp Blatter. The 136-page report, signed off by six authors, found that almost 10% of global transfer fees were now distributed to investors. The report did not make a specific recommendation on whether to ban the practice, but made it clear that football had to do something urgently because the practice was becoming difficult to control. The hands-off approach FIFA had adopted wouldn't be feasible anymore.

The following month, FIFA held its annual congress in São Paulo on the eve of the 2014 World Cup. Coverage of the event was dominated by Blatter's suggestion that he would be standing for a fifth term, even though he'd promised delegates when he was re-elected in 2011 that he wouldn't. Few in the conference room paid as much attention when the soft-spoken Englishman Geoff Thompson, a former FIFA vice-president, provided an update on what was called third-party ownership of transfer rights. Thompson, sometimes unflatteringly referred to as “Silent Geoff” in the British media, said that FIFA would set up an advisory panel that might lead to new global regulations. Given the influence of South Americans in FIFA's all-powerful executive committee, few at that point could have considered the possibility of an outright ban. Indeed, FIFA legal director Marco Villiger was briefing reporters ...

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