Italy: buy-back clauses now part of the football player transfer system
From June 2018 the so-called ‘buy-back right’ (diritto di recompra) became part of the football player transfer market in Italy, after it was incorporated into the domestic organisational rules of the Italian Football Federation (NOIF).
Buy-back rights are governed by Article 102 of the NOIF under which football clubs can include an option in a transfer agreement in favour of the selling club, giving it the right to buy back a transferred player’s sporting services definitively.
Under Italian Law, buy-back clauses are valid only on condition that:
- the transfer agreement contains a fee for the grant of the buy-back right and a fee for the repurchasing of the transferred player;
- the buy-back clause is signed by the player including an express declaration accepting any consequences of the exercise of the buy-back right;
- the selling club signs an economic agreement with the player for a minimum duration of two sporting seasons, counted from the season following the one in which the transfer took place;
- the buying club signs an economic agreement with the player for a minimum duration of three sporting seasons.
A buy-back right can be exercised by the selling club with effect from the first or second season after the one in which the transfer took place.
The buying club is also entitled to transfer the player’s contract to a third club temporarily or permanently, but only with the consent of the transferred player and the selling club. In any event, if the player is definitively transferred to a third club, the ‘buy-back right’ automatically lapses.
A buy-back right is a very important legal provision that allows transferring clubs to sell promising players (who are, however, in many cases, too young to play regularly for the club) to other clubs where they will be valued, knowing that those players can be repurchased at a fixed price, without the risk of losing a potential talent. The benefits of buy-back clauses extend to:
- selling clubs, as they receive a transfer fee for a player who may not be getting regular playing time, with the possibility of reacquiring that player at a predefined fee if he plays well;
- buying clubs, who can purchase a player that they may otherwise not have been able to acquire had it not been for the clause. In addition, the buyback fee is usually significantly higher than the original transfer fee; and
- the player, who can play regular first team football, probably receive a pay rise and demonstrate their talent.
For these reasons, the recent reform of the NOIF (to include buy-back clauses in transfer agreements) is highly appreciated by Italian clubs, especially after the provision for football player ‘joint participation’ (comproprietà), which allowed two clubs to hold a 50% share in a player’s sporting performance simultaneously, was eliminated in 2014. In fact, in recent years many European clubs have used buy-back clauses for players, including Alvaro Morata (Juventus back to Madrid), Casemiro (Porto back to Real Madrid) and Gerard Deulofeu (Everton back to Barcelona).