What are the implications following FIFA’s recent claims that the current regime surrounding the regulation of football agents is not working?

Football Agents

Football agents are individuals who act on behalf of a football player in order to negotiate the best football and commercial contracts for that player. Agents will be required to have signed a contract with that player in which their payment terms will be stipulated – for example they will either be paid a fixed annual sum or will be paid a percentage of the money made by the player.

FIFA Licensed Agents

For a football agent to operate and represent a professional footballer, according to the rules set down by the International Governing Body of football – FIFA, they will need to be an officially licensed agent.

For an agent to represent a player playing in a specific league he will be required to have obtained a licence from the national governing body in that country. For example an agent representing an English footballer in England will have to be licensed by the Football Association.

What are the problems with the current regime?

The problems with the current regime are that many players still use the services of un-licensed agents. It is estimated that only a small percentage of players use licensed agents which is a huge problem for the footballing authorities.

Furthermore as the licenses under the current regime are issued by the National Governing Bodies it is difficult to sanction as the Football Association in England has no power against agents bases in countries overseas.

What changes is FIFA proposing?

FIFA is proposing that control should be developed on a worldwide level rather than a national level and that FIFA will be able to hand down sanctions for breaches of the rules.

How does FIFA propose to do this?

FIFA proposes to do this by sanctioning the individual clubs and players who breach the rules on agents rather than FIFA handing down sanctions on the agents themselves. For example if a player is to breach the rules about using an unlicensed agent then the player rather than the agent will be punished by FIFA. The agent will still be punished by the national association in the fact that he will be known as an unlicensed agent and will not be able to apply to become a licensed agent.

What is the rationale behind FIFA’s proposals?

The rationale behind FIFA’s proposals is that the sanctions will be so heavy on the player or the club that it will serve as a deterrent for a player or a club to do this.

Will the new proposed system work?

If the system proposed by FIFA is to work then more regulations will have to be created in order to provide full details of how the system will work. There are however, certain advantages to the system:

  • Agents not based in a certain country will be able to be punished for wrongdoing in relation to activities in that country

  • More regulation and authority will be gained to deal with agents that act on behalf of the non-footballing commercial interests of football players – currently there is little regulation from the Football Association on this matter

Examples of activities by clubs

Furthermore over recent seasons there has been certain activities by the owners and members of the board of particular football clubs which has lead to certain players being bought for commercial reasons – i.e. that the club will get more favourable deals when dealing with those agents in the future. Another example of this kind of behavoiur by the owners of clubs is when certain payments are made into a service company owned by the chairman of the club by certain agents in agreement to purchase the players represented by these agents.

Both of these activities are in breach of the FIFA Regulations on agents and if the clubs are punished severely for this behaviour it is more likely for them to resist behaving in this manner.

Are there any disadvantages to the proposed system?

Often young footballers who have a huge amount of money will be seen as easy prey for individuals who are shrewd in the business market. In cases such as this unlicensed agents have persuaded a player to let them act on their behalf costing the player losses of his money due to certain improper deals concluded in his name.

In this situation a player has already been punished in monetary terms for his naivety and under the proposed FIFA regulations would again be punished by FIFA for the use of an unlicensed agent.  This is something which will need to be looked at if and when the new proposals come into force.

Are there any other ways which the regulation of agents can be improved?

Football Association Designated Bank Account

Currently in English football a system operates whereby all monies paid by English football clubs to overseas clubs and all monies paid to agents will be paid through the Football Associations designated bank account.

This system clearly makes it more difficult for the clubs to hide payments to unlicensed agents.

FIFA intends to operate an international version of this system at some point in the future.

The FIFA Transfer Matching System

The FIFA Transfer Matching System is a web based tool whereby all relevant data surrounding transfers are recorded in a centralised system. The kind of information which must be provided centres on money spend and received, commissions paid and the bank accounts used.

The reasons behind this are that international transfers will become more transparent enabling payments to be matched up to remove the ability to hide fraudulent payments.

This tool has been in full use since March 2010.