Marta's Santos loan questionable, never authorized by FC Gold Pride

Jeff Kassouf January 26, 2011 43
Marta

Marta celebrates her 2010 WPS Championship win with FC Gold Pride (ISIphotos.com).

Since FC Gold Pride ceased operations in November, the worldwide hunt has been on to acquire Marta.  On Tuesday, WPS expansion team Western New York Flash announced it had signed the five-time FIFA World Player of the Year and most entertaining magician to ever grace women’s soccer.  “Signed” is one way to put it.

Currently Marta is playing with Santos FC in Brazil on what is being called a loan deal.  The only problem with that is that there was never a loan deal agreed upon.

Santos, Marta and her agent, Fabiano Farah, are said to have blatantly ignored the existing contract with FC Gold Pride by signing a short-term deal with Santos, according to former FC Gold Pride General Manager Ilisa Kessler.  That violates FIFA regulations and the terms of Marta’s contract with FC Gold Pride.

Although FC Gold Pride ceased operations, the club never filed for bankruptcy.  Marta’s contract – originally a three year deal worth about $500,000 annually – was inherited by FC Gold Pride from the Los Angeles Sol after the Sol folded last January.  That is a guaranteed contract with one year remaining.

So, FC Gold Pride held Marta’s rights until Tuesday, when her contract was transferred over to the Flash.

FC Gold Pride never agreed to a loan deal with Santos because the Pride insisted to be compensated by Santos for any such move.  The Brazilian club would not pay FC Gold Pride, but Marta signed with Santos anyway, clearly violating the terms of her contract at the time (which is now in the hands of the Flash).

FC Gold Pride still would have been responsible for paying Marta in 2011 had it not found a team to which her contract could be transferred.  So for Marta to illegally go on loan is particularly concerning for the Pride.  What if she got hurt?

“I think it is important that all players uphold their contract,” Kessler said.  “If a player just decides that they are going to loan themselves out without the club that holds their contract then I think the whole fabric of what we are doing here is broken.”

Kessler immediately made the U.S.S.F. aware of the situation and it is up to the federation to take action.  Frankly, they should, but so too should FIFA.

Imagine Lionel Messi deciding to sign a short contract with a hometown Argentine club without Barcelona’s consent.  The move would never even happen.  Barcelona and FIFA would be under intense media scrutiny and FIFA would surely never allow the move to happen.  Look no farther than the Los Angeles Galaxy’s refusal to loan David Beckham to Tottenham this winter.  Beckham is under contract with the Galaxy, which holds the power to deny any move (as it did).

U.S. Soccer, which oversees the transferring of all professional contracts in the country, and FIFA are now faced with a similar situation regarding Marta.  The best player in the world just breached her contract with a United States professional club.

Should evidence surface that Santos, the Brazilian federation and Farah knowingly violated the terms of Marta’s contract with FC Gold Pride by signing with Santos, consequences should follow.  As an agent who represents high profile players such as Cristiano Ronaldo, Farah knows the proper procedures to transfer players.  Santos and the CFB often deal with transfers on the men’s side, so they too know.  Farah did not immediately respond to an e-mail regarding the situation.

As Kessler said, this could set a precedent that strips clubs of their power – a deserved legal power – to hold players to their contract.  There is no women’s player more high profile than Marta and an example must be made of the situation.  Maybe there is a loophole in Marta’s still somewhat secretive contract, but it looks like an obvious violation.

Articles nine and 10 in the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players clearly state that an International Transfer Certificate is required for players to be transferred or loaned.  Until that is done, the player cannot register with the new association.  A copy of the ITC must be filed with FIFA.  Kessler said she never signed an ITC.

So where exactly is FIFA throughout this mess?  The world’s best women’s soccer player, her agent and her club – whether knowingly or harmlessly – just publicly sidestepped FIFA regulations and nobody did a thing about it.  Marta was just in Zurich to pick up her fifth-straight Ballon d’Or, but FIFA did not bother to inquire there.  It is as if the world football governing body did not know.  Or maybe it just did not care.

It did not help that both U.S. and international media were led to believe Marta was on the open market and could sign with whichever club she desired.  That is on journalists to check facts, although one would be hard pressed to find a single source over the past few months to actually acknowledge that Marta is not a free agent.  That she was still under contract was a well-kept secret.

WPS brass stated that the league could survive without Marta.  In reality, the league had very little worry about the situation knowing that her contract had not expired.  At worst, FC Gold Pride would have been responsible for Marta’s salary and, if the club could not transfer her contract, she would not have been able to play for any other club in 2011.

The USSF needs to bring this to the attention of FIFA, which must put its foot down.  Santos should be liable for paying FC Gold Pride (and now potentially even Western New York Flash) for Marta’s services and there should be consequences for Farah if he knowingly went against the terms of FC Gold Pride’s contract with Marta (and it is natural to assume he was aware of this).

Letting this incident slide under the radar would save FIFA some embarrassment, but it would set one ugly precedent.  In the current state of women’s soccer, there are no player situations of greater magnitude than the ones involving Marta.  But regardless, what if this happened on the men’s side?  It would be on large scale embarrassment for all the guilty parties.  That includes FIFA, which would surely divvy out consequences.  That this happened with a smaller contract involving a women’s player should not change anything.

  • Jane

    Didn’t Marta herself say she had a year left on her contract a month or two ago? I’ll have to find that quote.

    • I recall seeing that somewhere in another language as well. It was one of many conflicting reports (although in the end that quote was accurate).

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  • manugi

    Why are we hearing about this just now? This loan with Santos was done some time back in November 2010. It was announce as a one month LOAN. Since then several publications have reported that Marta was on LOAN to Santos FC. So is not like they were hiding this. So why didn’t FC Gold Pride said something earlier. Maybe because Fc Gold Pride and WPS deceived us by saying she was a free agent when in fact she has a Guaranteed contract. I also wondered why bloggers like yourself who have reported about Marta’s deal with Santos never questioned why reports coming from Brazil said she was on LOAN when she was supposed to be a free agent.

    • Fair point. There was a discrepancy between reports out of Brazil and reports out of the U.S. If you look at everything said by WPS and even quotes from Marta throughout this winter, it was stated as though she had freedom of choice on where to play as if she was a free agent. I understand the reports differed in Brazil. It was all a bit of a mess, with articles even stating that she is on loan and then in the same story stating she is still searching for a contract with a new team. For legal reasons I think this never got out. Now that the contract has been transferred and the loan is almost over, it is starting to come out.

      • manugi

        Is a big mess alright, I also think FC Gold and WPS stayed quiet about this whole loan deal on purpose, because if they had been little more vocal(like the Galaxy) about their oppositon to this loan or the terms of it, we would had found out about Marta true status long time ago. I really hope you get a response from Farah, I would like to hear his side of the story. I hate this guy but he is damned good sports agent who’s been around long time. I can’t believe that he would blatantly do something like this.

  • Julie

    Has FIFA ever stepped into a Women’s Football situation and regulated? I feel like they must have, but if they have never made a big regulation this situation is even more interesting…

  • Nick

    Pretty interesting stuff. I can imagine Ilisa is pretty ticked about this. The whole thing seem odd though with FCGP going out of existence. Sounds like that did not nulify the contract. Did the league have anything to do with faclitating the transfer to WNY including picking up some of the money? I’m guessing the FCGP owners would have been glad to move the contract even if they had to pay a portion as well….just my wild speculations – lol.

    Really is a drag that we have no WPS out here in Calif… One last comment on Marta herself that I don’t see mentioned much. One of the hardest workers on the field at the games I saw. Amazing talent and dedication to the game.

    Ok one last comment, it surely couldn’t be that the world governing soccer doesn’t care about this issue because its the women’s game could it?

  • MarshallBR

    Jeff, this is really serious!

    I remember reading something on WPS site when FCGP folded, stating that all the players would become free agents automatically (gotta try to find it). One strange thing about it is that this was not the first “loan” involving Marta. What about the first one? Why would the second one be different from the first?

    I have never met Marta, but I would be extremely surprised if I found out that he did this knowingly. It just doesn’t fit with everything I’ve ever read about her.

    • She did have a brief stint in Brazil following the 2009 season, but I don’t know the nature of that loan.

  • MarshallBR

    Jeff,

    I’ve found the league statement about the teams in which they say that all FC Gold Pride players are free agents:

    Here’s the link: http://www.womensprosoccer.com/news/press_releases/101116-wps-2011

  • Aldo

    Nice find dude. I appreciate cold hard facts over speculative sensationalist stories with no solid facts that do much to damage the image of the game

  • So there is no story since she and the rest of her teammates where officially announced as free agents?

    This question should have been ran by the WPS first before making the acusation of the loan bieng “questionable”.

    Most importantly for the league and its fans: Marta will be back!

    • No, there is a story. WPS knows about it and can confirm the situation is exactly as written. I’m not making a false accusation. This is a legitimate problem, it is just probably on that FIFA won’t bother with.

  • ilisa kessler

    Jeff’s story is accurate and factual. A loan is between clubs and not the league. Marta’s agent and Santos and CBF knew that Marta was not a free agent, and that is what matters, not a public press release. I think Jeff’s point is spot-on – will FIFA take this seriously, or look the other way because it is the women’s game?

    • Richard Farley

      Ilisa Kessler dropping first-hand knowledge bombs on y’all!

      I hope all is well, Ilisa.

      • Really? Her team did fold right?

        • Richard Farley

          Yes. And yes, though the latter’s not relevant to Ilisa’s knowledge, is it?

          C’mon, man. I ain’t gotta be that way.

    • manugi

      But why did you wait so long to bring this up? Why didn’t you say something when the loan was first announced back in December?

  • manugi

    If you’re are so sure about these blatant violations in the part of Marta, her agent and the Santos club, why don’t you write this story for Sports Illustrated or ask your buddy Jacquelin Purdy to do a piece on it for ESPN. Maybe you’ll get Farah’s attention and he’ll have to respond to this allegations. And you might also get FIFA’s attention and they might actually do something about it….and you’ll feel much better.

  • Daniel

    Just a few thoughts, straight up without really checking my facts:

    Marta is not on a loan, at least not in the FIFA definition. Her registration has as far as I can understand not been transferred to Santos and CBF. That would have included US Soccer issuing an International Transfer Certificate, which would involve Gold Pride agreeing to the loan.

    So Marta is an unregistered player and cannot play official matches. But unlike last time, when she if my memory serves me played both Copa Libertadores and the Paulista, she hasn’t appeared in any official matches.

    Marta has played four matches for Santos in an exhibition tournament. To me, this doesn’t differ much from e.g. when Therese Sjögran, still an LDB FC player but with an agreement to transfer to Sky Blue FC, trains with and plays training matches for a third club, Linköpings FC. I can’t see that this constitutes a breach with FIFA rules on transfer of players.

    Marta’s contract might of course contain a clause that forbids her to play any kind of football (may it be a weekend pick-up game) outside the team without the club’s permission. This is not uncommon in player contracts, but whether it applies to Marta’s I have no idea.

    • I won’t pretend to know the technicalities. I do know enough to say that signing a contract with another team while already under contract is a problem. Ilisa commented above and can speak more to the subject, but as I wrote in the piece, she says there was never an ITC filled out or an agreement made. That seems to strike a problem. However, you do make some good points RE: Sjögran. Not sure it is the same situation, though.

  • It is a very dangerous to accuse players, agents, teams, leagues, and federations of collusion without knowing the “technicalities”.

    • Well, the FC Gold Pride GM is commenting and telling us there was not a proper transfer or loan, so I’m not sure what else is to be said. There is Fabiano Farah’s side, but I haven’t heard back from him. So, while I am not privileged enough to see Marta’s contract in person, Ilisa is.

  • ilisa kessler

    Daniel, the difference is that in Therese Sjögran’s example, player & clubs all had a signed agreement. That did not happen with FCGP. Santos & Marta had an agreement, but Santos needed to get a loan agreement with us, & they didn’t. Marta went to play for another club without a loan agreement and rec’d financial compensation for playing. This isn’t like Marta is just training and keeping in shape for the next season, she played in a tournament and was compensated for it. Let me also be clear that I doubt Marta knew – she is not involved in the business side – that’s why she pays an agent.

  • Gerry Marrone

    Terese Sjogran was done with signed agreements between SBFC, her club and her. It is all completely legit and she will get her ITC to play in the USA. MARTA’s agent knows the rules and has chosen to ignore them and the Sjogran deal is not the same.

  • Daniel

    I’m convinced Sjögran is playing with Linköping with the full knowledge and acceptance of LDB FC, but I am equally certain that she is not a registred Linköping player. I used the Sjögran example to show that it is not impossible for players to play unofficial matches with teams they don’t belong to.

    What I mainly was trying to point out is that FIFA’s regulations on player transfers talks about player registration and official matches. Marta has as far as I understand not been playing any official matches and thus there has been no need for transfer of the player registration. She might still be in violation of her contract, as I tried say.

    Has anyone (FC Gold Pride) filed an official complaint? I have never heard of FIFA or CAS ruling over something like this on their own initiative.

  • Jim

    Pretty sad state of affairs all the way around. FC Gold Pride blew it, in my self serving opinion, by developing a decent, and potentially increasing fan base at Santa Clara Univ in the south bay, and then leaving it for some ridiculous high school field and then some other location in Hayward. Hayward!!! Have you been to that area? Terrible location! Highways 880 and 580 are also known as the “Idiot 500”. Terrible demographic for womens’ soccer. Oh I’m sure the Team will put out some skewed statistics etc, but bottom line, nobody is going to travel to Hayward, and nobody in Hayward can or will pay to see a women’s game because the machismo demographic there simply does not respect or have interest in that game or any women’s sport. Read into that what you will, but it’s the truth.

  • well, lots of sides… uh
    but i feel FcGP left a big bunch of players free all under the rain and snow in a sudden decision. Marta, though
    few were that aware, had a big umbrella. Then what? of course the pride has thanked all the gods of the stadiums that someone at last picked her up, paid her some money and hopefully would pick her the flwg season,but the sooner the better.
    because this, move fm santos, would ease not complicate things for pride, obviously.
    BUt then they wait two months and when NYFlash cuts the hard piece of cheese then… well let´s make public and throw to the fan some legal things that
    protect us, better late than never! Fifa won´t do anything
    ´cause we re free to choose the legal formalities we wish: that of FCGP strangely late outcry or that of Fifa, as daniel puts it, saying didn´t play any official game.

  • Jim

    FC Gold Pride who? What club? Personally, it’s hard to take it seriously with a club that has folded. Yes, I can read they ceased operations but what a sad state of affairs that they win the championship and then they’re gone. I was hoping that Kobe Bryant would step in and buy the club.

    As for FIFA, you wonder if they even remember that women play soccer. It doesn’t surprise me that they wouldn’t even have known about this.

    I guess Marta didn’t take them seriously either.

  • “I think the whole fabric of what we are doing here is broken.”

    Huh? I hate to break it to you, Ms. Kessler, but WPS franchises folding
    left and right does a lot more harm to women’s soccer than a simple
    dispute over one player’s contract!

    Dave
    http://www.DaveBrett.com

  • Would imagine there’s a pretty good chance Marta hadn’t been fully paid by FC Gold Pride.

    Let it drop.

    Charles

  • NY Nick

    The parallels with Messi and Beckham do not hold water. This silly situation comes about because a champion team could not continue. That’s ridiculous, but that’s US women’s soccer. Have the remainders of the FC Gold Pride no shame. Would they pretend they could really offer Marta anything. They just want to soak someone for a few dollars at the expense of her playing time and conditioning. It’s not like they would or could do anything for her or any of the other Gold Pride players. This situation is so stupid and such poor public relations on the part of Gold Pride and the WPS that it is too sad for words.
    NY Nick

  • John La Madrid

    If her club folded then there is No club, there is No contract! They, the club have not held up their end… unless they are willing to pay in full ALL their players money owed, past, present and future. No club, No Money, No Contract! Then Marta can do as she pleases…

  • Marty

    IF FCGP ceased operations to me that mean if you are a player you better go find yourself some work. How did Marta know that just THIS week her contract would be given to another WPS team. If you are a bad business person and can’t run a team expect your assets that have legs to up and leave. This is WPS and FCGP’s fault not Marta’s. She is just looking to make sure whe can play somewhere

    • Definitely a good point. I think FC Gold Pride GM Ilisa Kessler makes a good point below that perhaps I should be clearer on – Marta probably didn’t know much about this. I can’t say she did or didn’t, but I have spoken with her before and Kessler obviously knows her well. She is very much about the play on the field. I think you have to look at the agent in this situation. He certainly would know the rules, as would the clubs. I hear everyone on the comments about the team folding, but it’s clear Marta’s contract was a different entity – one that ensured she was in WPS or nowhere else for the full three years. Both the team and league confirmed that although FC Gold Pride folded, Marta’s contract was still in their hands.

  • Luis

    It’s just ridiculous to compare a Messi (men’s pro soccer loan) and women’s soccer loans… The Women’s PRO soccer as so amateur, they even don’t respect the FIFA rules that requires FIFA agents to do their jobs, most of the coaches from WPS deal direct with the players, taking clearly some advantage of Brazilian players, paying lower salaries than American players (with exception of the stars Marta and Cristiane). WPS doesn’t follow FIFA agents rules at all, and you come here to talk about illegal loan? So, in your opinion the pro athletes got to be off during the WPS offseason? That’s just hilarious.

    • I didn’t say anything about athletes being off during the season. With the short WPS season it is great for them to go on loan. They just need to properly go on loan.

  • John

    And FIFA will do precisely nothing because they don’t give a ratsass about US soccer.

  • Chris

    Well, I don’t believe that FC Gold Pride was going to be able to hold up its end of the bargain, seeing as though it is about to become a footnote in women’s soccer history. It’s anticipatory repudiation. FCGP’s actions caused the voiding of the contract at Marta’s discretion and she is free to play wherever she wants.

  • ilisa kessler

    Just to make sure reputation isn’t ripped from ignorance (Charles)- Marta was paid in full, as were all of our vendors and a refund to all season ticket holders. In fact, we have our books open because we are waiting for money that people owe us. Fabiano knew that Marta’s contract was guaranteed. She was the only contract we had that was a guarantee without a team option (a contract we inherited). We asked for him to mutually terminate it so she could play elsewhere. He didn’t & instead still had Marta play elsewhere and get compensated in the six figures (per my conversation with Santos). We asked Santos for a loan fee prior to FCGP ceasing operations – as this was prior to any decision to fold the team. As soon as we requested a loan fee, they stopped contacting us. She isn’t free to play anywhere else, and WNY Flash can demand her to report for camp at anytime (except if she is on National Team Duty).

    Add’l for Luis – so you understand how this all works, if a player is represented by an agent, then we talk to the agent – it’s the 1st question I ask a player – who do you want me to talk to – an agent, your parents, you? But honestly, a player that is going to make $20k doesn’t need an agent – it’s just less money in the player’s pocket.

    FIFA rules are FIFA rules, so in the umbrella of FIFA, Messi and Marta are the same…or at least should be.

  • Sandra

    Ok, maybe too late to comment on it but all I like to say is that Marta was a free agent when she was playing with Santos in the winter (also announced by wps). Unfortunately Ilisa does not know the details of Marta’s contract as well as she thinks or/and what was agreed between Farah/Marta and fcgoldpride owners after the season was over. She was not part of the conversation when the decision was made. Illisa was not too professional during her time at pride and she was not going to be the GM in the following season if the was one.

  • ilisa kessler

    Just quickly Sandra. Not sure who you are or how you are associated with the Pride, but just as fact, I would not have been able to assign Marta’s contract to WNY if she was a free agent. There was nothing agreed between owners and agent and there was no conversation without me. I am sorry to hear you say I was unprofessional. People who know my character would prob not use that to describe me – maybe direct, determined, hard worker, I can even be a hard-ass, I have huge expectations of people, and I don’t have a prob calling people out if they steer off the path of business ethics. As far as me not being the GM the following season, just so you understand, this was not just a job for me – it was about having a pro women’s team in the Bay Area and when the owners told me there would not be a yr 3, I told them that if it was leadership that needed to be changed, then please do it rather than end the team. They told me it was not a leadership issue. I’ll believe ownership on that one. Thanks for your comments, although they seem more personal than factual. Hope I cleared things up.