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The FIFA Regulations on Trials (Article 19ter of RSTP)
In line with the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) October 2022 ed. and the Explanatory Notes on the New Provisions in the RSTP.
The regulation of the concept of “trials” is all the more important when considering that often a trial is the first step for a minor into the world of organised football – where some children may be called to travel across the world without any formal guarantees – as well as being a necessary step for many footballers to further their career. However, before the introduction of the recent amendments and additions to the RSTP in relation to the international transfer of minors, the FIFA regulations did not contain specific provisions regarding trials.
Therefore, to increase legal certainty, after discussions with its stakeholders, FIFA decided to establish a clear regulatory framework in this respect.
The importance of trials in the football ecosystem has led FIFA to address this issue, while taking into consideration the need to provide regulatory protection against the exploitation of all players. FIFA sincerely believes that football’s regulatory framework should strive to avoid abuse of players and guarantee their well-being.
In this context, a regulatory framework applicable to international trials – understood as the movement of a player for a trial with a club which is domiciled in a different member association to the one the player is domiciled in – has been developed in order to provide players, clubs and member associations with legal certainty. In this regard, the majority of the relevant amendments has been implemented in a new article of the RSTP (article 19ter of the RSTP) and can be summarised as follows:
Formal definition of “trial”
✓ For the first time, the RSTP defines “trial”, taking into consideration the purpose of a trial, namely as a way for a club to assess, over a short period, the skills and character of a player who is not registered with it.
With this in mind, it is important to clarify that the trial, in and of itself, generally does not create an employment relationship between the club and the trialist. Furthermore, a trial does not grant professional status to the trialist (cf. article 2 of the RSTP)
General conditions for all trialists
✓ Maximum duration of a trial
In order to avoid abusive practices and to provide operational certainty for clubs, the maximum duration of a trial has been established in article 19ter paragraph 4 of the RSTP. In other words, indefinite trials are not permitted. Accordingly, a player may be invited by a club for a trial for a defined period of time (cf. article 19ter paragraph 1 of the RSTP), and the maximum permissible duration of said trial is as follows:
• A maximum of eight weeks per club, in any one season, if the player is aged 21 and below; or
• A maximum of three weeks per club, in any one season, if the player is over the age of 21.
It is important to bear in mind that these weeks do not need to be taken consecutively and can be split up during the relevant season, if deemed appropriate. Moreover, the “relevant season” is the playing season of the club that invited the player on trial.
✓ Agreement between the parties on the conditions of the trial – FIFA Trial Form
With the aim of providing transparency and certainty to the parties involved, the club and trialist are required to agree, before the trial commences, on the conditions of the trial in accordance with article 19ter paragraph 2 of the RSTP.
In particular, the trialist and the club must agree on the following conditions:
• payment for accommodation;
• payment for travel;
• payment for meals; and
• payment for daily expenses.
In this regard, the parties must agree if the relevant payment in respect of the above-mentioned conditions will be covered by the club that invited the player on trial or not. If the parties agree that the club is responsible for the payment of any of these conditions, then the parties must agree on the total amount for the duration of the trial (and not per day) for each of the conditions.
To this end, the parties must give form to their agreement in the relevant FIFA Trial Form, which is available on FIFA.com.
In accordance with article 19ter paragraph 2 of the RSTP, the FIFA Trial Form must be completed, duly signed by both parties and uploaded by the club in the FIFA Transfer Matching System (TMS) at the latest ten days before the trial is set to begin.
Similarly, the FIFA Trial Form contains several data fields that need to be filled in accordingly. In this regard, the trialist’s personal information shall be corroborated with proof of identity which must be uploaded in TMS with the FIFA Trial Form.
It is also important to bear in mind that a professional under contract with a club is allowed to trial with another club, provided that the written permission of the player’s current club is duly obtained. In such case, the written consent from the current club must be uploaded in TMS with the FIFA Trial Form.
✓ Duty of care – medical treatment
As a safeguarding provision, in accordance with article 19ter paragraph 3 of the RSTP, the club owes a duty of care to the trialist. In this regard, clubs must provide and cover the cost of any necessary medical treatment for injuries which occur while performing activities within the scope of the trial and which are, therefore, caused directly by the trial.
✓ Type of matches in which a player can participate during a trial
Again, for the purpose of providing legal certainty, it was considered essential to distinguish which type of matches a trialist can participate in during the trial, particularly considering that such period of evaluation carries the particularity that the trialist is not registered with the club that invited him on trial.
Under the previous regulatory framework, while on trial (and therefore not registered with a club), players were only allowed to participate in matches which did not fall within the scope of “organised football”, which is defined in the RSTP as “association football organised under the auspices of FIFA, the confederations and the associations, or authorised by them”.
The new regulatory framework regarding trials implemented in the new article 19ter paragraph 5 of the RSTP now explicitly establishes that trialists are permitted to participate in friendly matches, provided that those friendly matches take place during the defined period of the trial, as well as any activity which does not fall within the scope of organised football.
For the purposes of article 19ter, a friendly match can generally be understood as any match that does not form part of an official competition of FIFA, a confederation, a member association or a league affiliated to a member association. In this regard, subject to specific rules existing at national level, matches in national league championships and national cup competitions, as well as matches in international club competitions (which form part of the official competitions of FIFA or a confederation), would not qualify as friendly matches.
It is important to recall that the general principle of the registration system is that all players who want to participate in organised football must be registered with a club, regardless of whether they have amateur or professional status. Since friendly matches may also fall within the scope of organised football, article 5 paragraph 1 of the RSTP has been amended in order to provide an exception to the general rule that dictates that only electronically registered players identified with a FIFA ID are eligible to participate in organised football, so that trialists (despite not being registered) may participate in friendly matches during a trial.
However, it shall be clarified that, similar to being registered, a player, by accepting a trial, agrees to fully comply with the FIFA Statutes and other regulations, as well as those of the confederations and the member associations.
Accordingly, and to further enhance legal certainty, article 9 paragraph 2 of the RSTP has been amended in order to clarify that member associations shall not request an International Transfer Certificate for the sole purpose of allowing a trialist to participate in friendly matches played in the context of a trial.
✓ Prohibition from requesting, offering and/or receiving payment connected to a trial
To safeguard the welfare of players on trial and avoid abuse, article 19ter paragraph 6 of the RSTP explicitly prohibits any person subject to the FIFA Statutes from requesting, offering and/or receiving any payment in connection with a trial. This provision does not have an impact on the agreement between the club and trialist on the conditions of the trial, i.e. the club is allowed to cover costs related to a trial within the framework of article 19ter of the RSTP.
✓ Clubs are not entitled to receive training rewards for trials
Furthermore, given that the purpose of a trial is for a club to be able to assess a trialist’s skills and character without having to register them, article 19ter paragraph 7 of the RSTP explicitly states that clubs are not entitled to receive training rewards (i.e. solidarity mechanism or training compensation) for the defined trial period. The entitlement remains with the club for which the player remains registered, even if absent for a trial.
General conditions for minor players
Minors find themselves in a much more vulnerable position than adults, and as such more stringent safeguarding mechanisms are needed to protect them. To help combat child trafficking, prevent mistreatment and abuse of minor players, avoid circumvention of the rules, and provide stronger accountability, the following specific instruments have been introduced in article 19ter paragraphs 8 and 9 of the RSTP, which applies to trials concerning minors, in addition to the general conditions for all trialists.
✓ Minimum age for international trials
Trials of minor players are allowed, provided that the date on which the trial begins is during the season in which the minor has their 16th birthday. The season to take into account is the season of the club that invites the minor on trial.
If the domicile of both the minor trialist and the club that invited the minor on trial is in Europe, the date of the trial may begin during the season in which the minor has their 15th birthday. The term “Europe” is to be understood not in a political sense but rather comprising the member associations affiliated to UEFA.
✓ Express written permission of the minor trialist’s parents
Written permission of the minor trialist’s parents is required for a minor to trial with a club. The written permission must be uploaded in TMS with the FIFA Trial Form.
✓ Point of contact for the minor trialist
The club that invited the minor on trial must designate an employee within the club to be the point of contact for the minor trialist. The full name and contact details of the designated employee within the club to be the point of contact for the minor trialist must be specified in the FIFA Trial Form.
✓ Obligation to provide the minor trialist with optimum accommodation, living standards and adequate coverage of expenses
The club must ensure that the minor trialist has optimum accommodation, living standards and adequate coverage of expenses. In order to protect young players, these conditions may not be negotiated.
✓ A minor amateur below the age of 16 may only trial with a club provided that their current club is duly informed of the trial and given a copy of the relevant FIFA Trial Form.
The regulations establish that an amateur minor below the age of 16 is allowed to trial with another club. However, the minor must inform their current club about the trial and provide said club with a copy of the completed and duly signed FIFA Trial Form.
✓ Limitation on the number of trials of a minor per year
In order to avoid minors going on international trials for an extensive period, which can be detrimental to their development, the new regulations establish that there will be a limitation on the number of trials per player, within a calendar year. Accordingly, a minor may only attend a maximum of two trials per calendar year.
Furthermore, each trial must comply with the established maximum duration of eight weeks per club, in any one season.
✓ Relationship with collective bargaining agreements
Where a collective bargaining agreement is validly concluded at national level, it is possible to deviate from the minimum standards between the trialist and the club provided by article 19ter of the RSTP, as well as establish additional conditions when a player may leave their current club to attend a trial. However, for the sake of clarity, no deviation is possible, for example, from the minimum age in respect to international trials (article 19 paragraph 8 a) of the RSTP), the type of matches that a player can participate in during a trial (article 19ter paragraph 5 of the RSTP), that clubs are not entitled to receive training rewards for having a player on trial (article 19ter paragraph 7 of the RSTP), etc.
The FIFA Disciplinary Committee will impose sanctions for any violation of these provisions, as well for the failure to upload a completed and duly signed FIFA Trial Form in TMS or to fulfil a condition agreed in a FIFA Trial Form. In these types of proceedings both the trialist and the concerned club will have the procedural status of a party before the Disciplinary Committee, to ensure that whenever their rights are directly affected, they can duly participate in such proceedings.
It is important to bear in mind that for the commencement of disciplinary proceedings in relation to a failure to comply with agreed conditions of a trial, a written complaint must be made.
Article 19ter Trials (FIFA RSTP October 2022 ed.)
General conditions for all triallists
1. A club may invite a player to trial with it for a defined period of time. A professional (within the meaning of art. 2 herein) may only trial with another club with the express written permission of their current club.
2. The club and the invited player shall agree on the conditions of the trial (e.g. payment for accommodation, travel, meals and daily expenses) on the FIFA Trial Form before the trial commences. A complete and duly signed FIFA Trial Form must be lodged in FIFA TMS by the club at the latest ten days before the trial commences.
3. During a trial, the club owes a duty of care to the triallist. In particular, the club shall provide the triallist with, and cover the cost of, any necessary medical treatment for injuries sustained while performing activities within the trial.
4. The maximum duration of a trial for players aged 21 and below shall be eight weeks, consecutive or non-consecutive, per club in any one season. The maximum duration of a trial for players over the age of 21 shall be three weeks, consecutive or non-consecutive, per club in any one season.
5. A player on trial is only permitted to participate in friendly matches and any activity that does not fall within the scope of organised football. Such friendly matches must take place during the duration of the relevant trial.
6. Any person subject to the FIFA Statutes is prohibited from requesting, offering, and/ or receiving any payment whatsoever connected to a trial, without prejudice to the agreement between the club and the triallist on the conditions of the trial, according to paragraph 2 above.
7. Clubs having a player on trial are not entitled to receive training rewards for the period during which a player is on trial with that club.
Conditions specific to minor triallists
8. In addition to the general conditions, a minor may only trial with a club provided that:
a) the date the trial period begins occurs during the season of:
i. the minor triallist’s 16th birthday; or
ii. the minor triallist’s 15th birthday if both the minor’s and the club’s domicile are located in Europe;
b) the club obtains express written permission from the minor triallist’s parents;
c) the club designates an employee within the club to be the point of contact for the minor triallist;
d) the club ensures that the minor triallist is provided with optimum accommodation and living standards and adequate coverage of expenses; and
e) for amateur minor players below the age of 16, the current club of the minor is informed of the trial and provided with the complete and duly signed FIFA Trial Form.
9. A minor may only attend two trials per calendar year, each of them subject to the maximum duration stipulated in article 19ter paragraph 4.
10. Collective bargaining agreements validly negotiated by employers’ and employees’ representatives at domestic level, in accordance with national law, may deviate from the minimum standards stipulated above and/or establish additional conditions when a player may leave his current club to attend a trial. Sanctions
11. Any failure to fulfil a condition agreed in a FIFA Trial Form or to upload a complete and duly signed FIFA Trial Form and/or any violation of this provision will be sanctioned by the Disciplinary Committee in accordance with the FIFA Disciplinary Code. In such proceedings, both the triallist and the club concerned will have the procedural status of a party before the Disciplinary Committee.
In line with article 19ter of the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players, the club and the player invited to trial (hereinafter: triallist) shall agree on the conditions of the trial on the FIFA Trial Form before the trial commences. A complete and duly signed FIFA Trial Form shall be lodged in FIFA TMS by the club latest ten days before the trial commences.