In a bridge transfer, a third club is placed between an old and a new club for the purpose of avoiding or gaining access to applicable regulations and laws.
Indicators of bridge transfers are:
- a short time period in which the transfers happen;
- the transfer to the bridge club lacks sports reasons;
- there is an obvious discrepancy between the level of the player and the bridge club.
- Player P is 19 years old and is registered for 3 years as an amateur with the Ghanian club GA.
- club DA is a Dutch category I club and wishes to sign P but without paying the Ghanaian club GA training compensation (270K EUR max);
- the Dutch club DA is befriended with or controls the Bulgarian category IV club BA;
- the default rule is that a category IV club does not have to pay training compensation.
- the Dutch club DA asks the Bulgarian club BA to sign the player
- Shortly after the Bulgarian club BA has signed the player, the player is transferred to against a zero or low fee to the Dutch club DA, which now has the player for a bargain and
- the Ghanaian club GA is left empty-handed.
- Player P from country A is transfer free.
- Player P wishes to sign with Club A from country A and collect a high sign-on fee
- sign-on fees are taxed at a high rate (for instance 50%) in country A and the player wishes to avoid that;
- in country B the tax rate on sign-on-fees are tax exempt
- Player P (or his agent) know club B in country B who is willing to facilitate a bridge transfer against a small fee (lower than the tax on sign-on-fees in country A)
- Club A in country A is willing to pay the sign-on-fee in the form of a transfer fee to club B, which transfer fee after deduction of Club B’s fee is paid to the player P.
- shortly after the transfer to club B the player the player is transferred to Club A.
- Club A pays the transfer F, out of sight for the tax authorities of country A club B pays player P the transfer fee after deducting a small fee.
- Player P avoids paying taxes over the ‘sign-on-fee/transfer fee’ in country A.
- the whole construction has no other purpose than tax-evasion and the transfer to club B lacks sportive reasons.
Transfers of this kind have been a thorn in FIFA’s side for many years and FIFA has not always been successful in fighting it due to lack of explicit guidelines in the regulations. This has changed per 1 March 2020. New provisions have bee added to the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RST)with the aim to ensure that football transfers have a legitimate purpose and are not undertaken to circumvent FIFA regulations and applicable laws. 
- First of all the RSTP now define what a bridge transfer is:
any two consecutive transfers, national or international, of the same player connected to each other and comprising a registration of that player with the middle club to circumvent the application of the relevant regulations or laws and/or defraud another person or entity
- It has been made clear that players may only be registered for sports or transparency reasons:
A player may only be registered with a club for the purpose of playing organised football. As an exception to this rule a player may have to be registered with a club for mere technical reasons to secure transparency in consecutive individual transactions (cf. Annexe 3)
- Both clubs and players involved in bridge transfer risk sanctions::
No club or player shall be involved in a bridge transfer.
- The burden of proof is also reversed in case 2 transfers follow each other within a 16 week period.:
It shall be presumed, unless established to the contrary, that if two consecutive transfers, national or international, of the same player occur within a period of 16 weeks, the parties (clubs and player) involved in those two transfers have participated in a bridge transfer.
This does not mean that consecutive transfers are prohibited within this period, but parties involved in a consecutive transfer will be required to demonstrate that there is no foul play if they are charged with a bridge transfer.
It is difficult to believe that this will be the end of bridge transfers but it will be more difficult in the future.
For instance to avoid paying training compensation or solidarity fee. ↩
For instance to gain access to federative rights. Think of the right to a transfer fee that can be enforced via FIFA arbitration panels, national arbitration panels and the CAS. ↩
Art 2. sub ii Annex 4, Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players ↩
A lack of clear transparent regulations has been painfully made clear by the CAS:
Arbitration CAS 2014/A/3536. ↩
FIFA Circular no.1709, 13 February 2020, section (e) ↩
Definitions point 24 ↩
Art. 2.5 Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players ↩
Art. 5bis par. 1, Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players ↩
Art. 5bis par. 2, Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players ↩