Such a move is called a ‘bridge transfer’ – which clubs around the world have used to circumvent certain rules and regulations, avoid tax, mask third-party payments or reduce liability for training compensation – and has been officially outlawed by FIFA since earlier this year. The world governing body now regards any player who spends less than three months at a club before moving to another as having engaged in a bridge transfer, unless they can show evidence to the contrary.
Sources say AGF will not appeal FIFA’s decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but Duncan’s representatives and family are not happy with the outcome and reject any suggestion of wrongdoing.
They say Duncan injured his hamstring while on trial with AGF, then returned home and signed for boyhood club Marconi, who helped him rehab his injury – and only once he became fit and AGF had sold two other midfielders in the interim did they offer him a contract.
Duncan was at the Roar on a scholarship deal – earning him just $60 a week – but was never offered a professional contract by them, Sydney FC or the Wanderers despite his obvious promise. He was, however, invited to trial for one at Brisbane under Robbie Fowler, who was their incoming coach at the time.
“If anyone deserves training compensation, it should be the parents,” said Duncan’s Sydney-based father, Trevor.
“In Australia, it’s user pays. I paid the whole time for my boy to play.
“If the A-League clubs now are all pushing to get money, will they reimburse me the $2500 I paid for each year he was playing for the clubs? It’s not right, because no rules have been broken.”
Duncan, 20, has played 15 senior games for AGF but ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in May, throwing his hopes of playing at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 into serious doubt. He is regarded as one of Australia’s brightest young talents.
For Brisbane Roar – who received about $110,000, the most of the three affected A-League clubs – it is a welcome win on the legal front after FIFA recently ordered them to pay out Fowler and his former assistant Tony Grant in an unfair dismissal case. The Roar are also involved in disputes with ex-Socceroo Brett Holman and the Logan City Council.
Chief executive David Pourre said the club was “very happy” with the outcome, which was handed down on November 24 by FIFA, which has not yet released their reasons for the decision.
“It’s important that the integrity of these systems is upheld and we’re pleased with the result, as are the other clubs in the A-League who have made claims,” Pourre said.
NPL NSW club Sydney Olympic, where Duncan also spent time as a junior, is also believed to be entitled to a portion of training compensation from FIFA.
It comes as Football Federation Australia prepares to release a ‘white paper’ next week on a proposed domestic transfer system which chief executive James Johnson is hoping will have a major impact on player movement at all levels of the game in Australia.
In reference to FIFA’s ruling on Duncan, an FFA spokesperson said: “This is a situation which clearly and further validates the need for a reinvigorated domestic transfer system, including a new agents accreditation system, to help regulate the transfer of players, domestically and internationally.”
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.