The long-running dispute involving a claim for solidarity payments by Redmond-based Crossfire Premier over the transfer of former Seattle Sounders midfielder DeAndre Yedlin to Tottenham Hotspur was rejected by FIFA’s Dispute Resolution Chamber on Monday.
The three-page document, obtained by Sounder At Heart, does not outline the reason the claim was unsuccessful. The decision was made on April 11, though not transmitted to the parties until today. Solidarity Payments and Training Compensation are a FIFA mandate designed to reward youth programs that develop professional players. Upon signing their first professional contract overseas, or subsequently being transferred, a set amount of money is distributed to the youth teams that helped develop the player. In this case, Tottenham as the buying club would have been responsible for the payment to Crossfire.
Unlike the claims for solidarity payments involving Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley — which were rejected last month— Crossfire will not have to pay to obtain the full ruling for the Yedlin claim. Crossfire would have been required to pay between $8,000-$10,000 to obtain copies of those findings.
In a telephone interview, Lance Reich, the attorney for Crossfire, expressed bewilderment at the decision, and said he has requested a copy of the ruling. Documentation obtained by Sounder At Heart confirms that process is under way.
“This is horrendous,” Reich said. “Whatever they [DRC] say now, is just going to be a Pandora’s Box.”
Whatever the reason for the decision, it could have signifiant ramifications on soccer in the United States. Tottenham in their defense to the claim raised several reasons why they shouldn’t have to pay: 1) Yedlin’s player passport was incomplete, 2) US Soccer had a history of questionable record keeping, 3) Crossfire is a pay-to-play academy and 4) Crossfire is not a professional organization, and does not offer youth players professional contracts.
Yedlin’s player passport was initially incomplete; in fact he had at least two passports (confirmed by Sounder at Heart) after Crossfire complained that the first one was incorrect. The player passport documents each youth team a player has played with over the course of his youth career, and is what is used to calculate how much money an academy is owed in training compensation or solidarity payments. The information contained in the document is to be sufficiently detailed (name, age, date player is with respective clubs) so those amounts can be calculated accurately. If the DRC determined that passport information was insufficient, it could provide a reason to reject the claim.
Similarly, if the DRC finds that US Soccer’s record keeping generally was insufficient, they could determine that awarding solidarity payments or training compensation would be impossible for that entire time period. US Soccer has previously admitted to failing to keep adequate records for its youth players, though they have since rectified the issue. Still, that would be of little consolation to Crossfire, who indicated further action against the Federation could be pending.
“If that’s the case, why aren’t these guys [US Soccer] referred to the Disciplinary Committee,” Reich said. Additionally, if the DRC finds that the Federation was systematically negligent in their record keeping, then Reich indicated a suit could result. “That’s a class action lawsuit,” he said.
If the DRC rules that the pay-to-play structure favored in the United States is the basis for the ruling, Reich noted that academies all over the world have some amount of fee or contribution, though the costs are significantly less than in the US.
“How thinly do you want to peel the onion?” Reich said. Reich also noted that Yedlin was on scholarship at Crossfire.
Finally on the inability of United States youth academies to offer youth players professional contracts, Reich said Crossfire have relationships with professional organizations all over the world, and nothing in the FIFA statutes requires such a relationship.
“We do have relationships with pro clubs,” Reich said.
The timeline to receive a full ruling on the decision is unknown, though Reich noted he requested the documents on an “urgent” timeline. “It could be months,” Reich said.
Major League Soccer, the Sounders, the US Soccer Federation and the MLS Player’s Association were all contacted for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication. The story will be updated with their comments when and if they are received.