Roma: UEFA boss Michel Platini on Tuesday urged the European Union to outlaw third-party ownership of footballers, casting doubt on whether FIFA would act effectively to stamp out the practice.
Addressing a meeting of EU sports ministers in Rome, Platini departed from his prepared script to issue an impassioned appeal over a practice he described as "a tangible threat to the ethical integrity of our sport."
Bowing to pressure from UEFA, FIFA agreed last month to phase out arrangements where a player can be partly owned by a club and partly by one or more investors.
Critics say such arrangements, which players including Brazilian Neymar and Argentina`s Carlos Tevez have been subject to, can lead to conflicts of interest and possible corruption.
Advocates of the system argue that it often enables poorer clubs to hang on to their best players by generating funds to match the wages of bigger and wealthier rivals.
Against that backdrop, FIFA said it would need three or four years to implement its decision, with the exact timescale not due to be decided until next March.
British football has already banned third party ownership and Platini said the whole of the 28-member European Union should create a legal framework to ensure the elimination of a practice once restricted to Latin America but now "invading Europe."
"Players see their contractual freedom restricted as their owners abuse their power and do lucrative deals on their backs," Platini told ministers.
"It has very little to do with human dignity or the fundamental rights on which the European Union is based.
"These funds (investing in players) are often based in tax havens with very murky structures."What will happen when these funds own several players in the same competition? The response is simple: a nightmare of fixed matches could become a reality.
"FIFA has said it has heard my appeal and will end the practice over time.
"But we cannot afford to ignore the possibilities of tomorrow. What will happen if FIFA does not act with sufficient consistency, energy and courage?
"What will happen if the (FIFA) resolution, in the end, is neutralised by pressure from some investment funds blinded by the pursuit of profit?"
Platini also briefed the ministers on UEFA`s Financial Fair Play initiative, saying he was proud of the results achieved since the introduction of a system of fines for clubs who spend significantly beyond their revenues.
"The fact is we have stabilised a situation that had come close to the point of no return," he said. "The immense majority of clubs risked being driven to disaster."
As a result of FFP, Platini said the cumulative losses of European clubs had fallen from 1.7 billion euros in 2011 to 800 million in 2013. He also said club arrears on debt payments, including tax liabilities, had fallen from 57 million euros to nine million over the same period.
"This virtuous spiral is thanks to Financial Fair Play," Platini said.
FFP is currently the subject to a number of legal challenges, including one from fans in several countries who argue that the requirement to balance budgets over time breaches EU competition law because it reduces the potential of smaller clubs to benefit from the financial support of a benefactor willing to lose his money in pursuit of glory on the pitch.
The system has been endorsed by the European Commission however and outgoing Sports Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou reiterated the executive`s backing for Platini.
"It is ambitious to fight it but also comforting to see around the table all the national ministers agreeing with the commission that we have a common duty to fight this evil of financial non fair play," she said. "It is very important that we support UEFA in this fight."