BRUSSELS - The world footballers' union FIFPro will lodge a legal complaint at the European Commission (EC) on Friday, arguing that the transfer system is fundamentally flawed and has failed to meet its original targets.
A FIFPro spokesman said that the case could lead to the scrapping of the current system, in which players are traded between clubs for fees that reach tens of millions of euros.
However, FIFPro said it was premature to envisage what football would be like without the current system of transfers if it were eventually abolished.
FIFPro said that the complaint would target football's governing body FIFA, which administers international transfer regulations through the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP).
The union will allege that the transfer system, which has existed in its current form since 2001, infringes European competition law.
The EC, the European Union's executive body, will be told that the current set up has led to a situation where the market is dominated by a handful of elite clubs and that the gap between them and the rest is increasing.
The complaint also alleges that the system has failed to ensure contractual stability and has led to side-effects such as third-party ownership of players and the trafficking of minors.
FIFPro, which represents 65,000 professional footballers worldwide, first threatened to challenge the transfer system in 2013.
"The transfer system fails 99 per cent of players around the world, it fails football as an industry and it fails the world's most beloved game," said FIFPro president Philippe Piat at the time.
FIFPro says that FIFA's tribunal deals with around 4,000 disputes a year between players and clubs, many involving unpaid wages.
Even so, FIFPro says that a player has to wait 90 days of non-payment before he can end his contract for just cause.
He then faces a long process through FIFA's dispute resolution chamber that takes an average of 590 days.
On the other hand, FIFPro says that if a player breaches a contract, he is suspended for four months and must pay compensation based on his market value which could run into several years' wages.
The European Clubs Association (ECA), which represents more than 200 clubs, said recently that it was aware of a possible legal complaint and urged FIFPro to return to the negotiating table.
"We are in talks with FIFPro and I hope we will find solutions which can be accepted by both," said ECA chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
"I would like to call on FIFPro.. because it can't be for the good of football that we find solutions through legal claims."