Who is a professional footballer?

It may sound simple enough, but how exactly can we distinguish a professional player from a semi-professional or an amateur player? The Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP) enacted by FIFA contain global and binding rules governing the status, eligibility and transfer of players in organized football.

Types of players

Even though it is common for some players to be referred to as semi-professional players, under the RSTP, there are basically only two types of players – professionals and amateurs.

Professional player:            there are two elements which must exist in order to determine that a player is a professional:

  1. he has a written contract with a club; and
  2. what he is paid is more than the expenses he incurs.

Amateur player:       the RSTP does not specifically define amateur players. It simply states (after defining a professional player) that all other players are considered to be amateur.

It would therefore seem that a ‘semi-professional’ player who does not meet the twin conditions would be considered to be an amateur player.

Determining the status of a player

Some amateur players enter into amateur contract with their clubs, while some players have professional contracts with clubs in a non-professional leagues or divisions. The significance of the status of a player as a professional or amateur is not only with regard to the right to earn salaries or other rights of the player, but also in circumstances such as establishing a player’s eligibility for certain competitions or whether a former club is entitled to training compensation.

In the event of a dispute, the tribunal would look beyond whether a player’s contract or registration describes him as a professional or an amateur and focus on whether the two elements that define a professional player are present. For instance, where a player transfers to another club on what is labeled an amateur contract but earns up to the average or any applicable minimum wage, he is likely to be considered a professional player.

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