The last term of office 2006-2010 has seen major changes in international transfer operations within FIBA.
The FIBA Central Board, during its meeting in Geneva of 6-7 December 2008, approved amendments to the FIBA Internal Regulations governing the International Transfer of Players (H.3) according to which, as of 1st July 2009, all decisions related to international transfers of Players (including transfers between national federations within the same Zone) are the competence of FIBA.
Since the entry into force of the new regulations in 2009, the FIBA transfer department has mainly worked upon the administration of International Letter of Clearances (LOCs) thus dealing with many of the national member federations on a daily basis for smoother processing of international transfers from a legal and administrative perspective.
As we are fast approaching the end of the decade, the number of international transfers is also rapidly growing with the majority of international transfers occurring to/from the European continent (annex 1 and 2). Moreover, the past years have seen a boom in the number of transfers within the Asian continent.
FIBA has registered a total of 4,524 LOCs processed in 2008. This figure gradually increased to a total of 5,125 international transfers of Players in 2009 (annex 3). A total of 117 out of FIBA’s 213 National member Federations have been active on the international transfers’ scene.
FIBA observes that smaller National Federations accross all five continents are issuing or requesting LOCs more and more. This clearly shows that basketball is truly an international game and is heading in the right direction in terms of international expansion and development.
FIBA also supervises the transfers between National member Federations and the three North-American Professional Basketball leagues, namely the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Basketball Association Development League (NBDL) and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) (Annex 4, 5, 6 and 7). These three professional leagues are resorting to the skills of foreign international players more and more.
The progression of basketball worldwide can be exemplified by the annual NBA Draft, which experiences a growing number of foreign players each year. In the 2009 NBA Draft, 16 out of the possible 60 draftees were in fact international players (Annex 8). This demonstrates the health of basketball worldwide with young basketball players other than from the United States of America being offered the opportunity to compete at the highest level.
This does not take into consideration the players that are in the US College system.
The game of basketball has been growing and evolving this past decade and is expected to expand many more in the years to come.
Players from all origins and backgrounds are showing interest in being part of the many basketball leagues in activity all over the world. Strength of the National Championships, players salaries, quality of life, number of foreign players allow to participate in the league are influencing transfer of players. Consequently, with the increasing number of international transfers, the FIBA transfers department is working on how to approach and tackle the ever-growing number of transfers worldwide.
While the centralization of international transfers within FIBA has had the advantage of bringing more consistency and transparency in the way transfers operate throughout the world, it also allowed all legal disputes arising out of international transfers to be dealt with according to the same set of principles and regulations.
The FIBA World Congress this year will mark the FIBA transfer department’s first year of operation in international transfers. This is a good opportunity for an assessment of the work that has been achieved over the past year but more importantly, for a reflection on potential improvements and future challenges.
International Transfers of Under-18 Players and the Protection of Minors
It is FIBA’s commitment to ensure that under-age Players are taken care of throughout their basketball career as minors as well as to make sure that transferring to another country is a positive step for the young Player’s future career. In particular, FIBA wants to be provided with the guarantee that each young Player who transfers abroad will be offered adequate academic and/or school or vocational training which will prepare the Player for a career after his/her career as a professional athlete.
During its meeting in Geneva on 6–7 December 2008, the FIBA Central Board approved important amendments with regards to international transfers of under-18 Players with the main concern being that transfers of minors should not disrupt the young Players’ schooling.
As a result, international transfers of Players who are under-18 years of age are not permitted unless the transfer is expressly approved by FIBA Secretary General. In making a decision, the Secretary General will pay particular attention to the young Player’s housing, schooling and sport education. In other words, before granting an authorization, the Secretary General will need to be fully confident that the young Player will be brought into a positive environment for the development of his/her basketball career.
Less than three years have passed since the introduction of the regulations governing international transfers of under-18 Players and so far more than 75 special authorizations have been granted by FIBA Secretary General.
While National member federations need to provide FIBA with a complete set of documents before an authorization can be granted, it has been well understood among the Basketball family that this burden – which lies on the shoulders of the clubs and national federations of destination – has a concrete objective: the protection of minors in Basketball.
During the last term 2006-2010, FIBA has carefully monitored the countries that were the most active on the under-18 international transfer scene. Unsurprisingly, statistics show that young talents involved in international transfers often come from developing countries and are attracted by all the benefits that the richest clubs and academies only can offer.
While FIBA is clearly in favour of offering young talents the possibility to evolve at the highest level, we are also conscious that developing countries need to be protected.
Therefore two main measures have been implemented:
a) A system of quotas whereby only a certain amount of under-18 Players can be transferred to and from a particular country per season, thus preventing the hoarding of young talents by the richest countries;
b) The obligation for any young Player transferring to another country to sign a declaration with the club and national federation of destination stating that he/she will make him/herself available to his/her home country’s national team whenever he/she is summoned to participate in an official competition, preparation time or training camps provided that they do not interfere with school activities.
These measures, in conjunction with a financial compensation to be paid by the club of destination to the club(s) which has (have) spent considerable time and money for the training of the young Player, have proved to be efficient tools for the protection of developing countries and the regulation of the international U-18 transfer market.
Young Players are the future of our sport. It is therefore FIBA’s duty, in collaboration with all national member federations, clubs and licensed agents to protect them.