Football agents genuinely uncomfortable as Fifa moves to regulate their services, value
What you need to know:
The Regulations introduce a licensing system where agents must pass an exam before obtaining a license. The agents are also required to annually receive professional development and education.
In a football WhatsApp group, I recently keenly followed an interesting discussion where aspersions were cast on a football agent by a couple of the members of the group for allegedly messing up the football careers of a couple of footballers past and present. Whether or not those allegations are true, they speak volumes about the power of football agents in the football value chain.
It is against that backdrop that Fifa has decided to rein in agents after deciding to deregulate them in 2015. According to the football governing body, excesses are coming out of that industry that it cannot turn a blind eye to.
As a result, Fifa has come up with a draft of the “Fifa Agent Regulations” that carries mandatory provisions for agents which it intends to pass soon. They have been delayed by pushback from the agents who largely claim that they were not consulted. This piece is alert on the pertinent aspects of these Regulations.
The Regulations introduce a licensing system where agents must pass an exam before obtaining a license. The agents are also required to annually receive professional development and education. This licensing requirement also bars agents with criminal offences, and other regulatory challenges from obtaining licenses and places an obligation on them to act in the clients’ best interests-things like concealing information from clients will no longer be tenable. The details of the registered agents will be published on the Fifa website. Ethical standards will be high.
The draft Regulations importantly restrict multiple representations in the same transaction which is currently permitted and cap agents’ commission at 3% of the players’ gross remuneration if acting for the player or the club interested in buying them. An agent can currently earn up to 5% of the player’s earnings which many a time goes higher. These two changes are perhaps the most controversial and have elicited strong feelings amongst agents because it reduces their earnings and reduces their market. It is common to see an agent act for the player, selling club, and the club that wants to sign him. Fifa argues that it is important for maintaining the integrity of football, fighting conflict of interest, and allowing contractual stability.
The contest for minors between clubs and agents that often leads to all manner of unscrupulous acts is also going to be reined in. There will be a requirement for a representation contract to be signed by legal guardians. It will be prohibited to approach a minor until 6 months before they can sign their first professional contract which differs in many countries but the often-acceptable age is 17.
The players themselves as opposed to clubs will now be required to pay their agents. The norm has been for clubs to pay players’ agents on behalf of the players but now they will only be obliged to do so once the players' remuneration is over $200,000.
I look forward to the ramifications of this going forward-how many players earn the said amount in the football world? Is this more or less aimed at killing the agent industry because what are the chances that players will actually pay the agents' commissions? Shall we see players asking for higher wages to enable them to pay their agents?
Fifa also intends to introduce a special dispute resolution chamber for disputes involving agents which often have been handled by a Court of competent jurisdiction to handle since they are largely contractual disputes.
Regulating agents is a welcome move and will enhance credibility, transparency, and trust in the industry. Of course, many agents are not and will not be happy and there are instances of legal action being taken in some countries.
The author is a Sports Lawyer,
Partner at Matrix Advocates and Lecturer at IUEA