After a much prolonged effort, FIFA has addressed one of football’s most controversial sectors; football agents, via the introduction of a new regulatory framework called the FIFA Football Agent Regulations. These rules replace the FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries.
The regulations have been on the drawing board since 2017 and involved laborious consultations with key stakeholders, amongst them FIFA member associations and football agents/football agent associations. The rules will come into full effect on October 1.
FIFA has ensured that the regulations fall in line with the European Union’s report on EU sports policy as well as the Council of Europe’s report on football governance.
At the heart of the regulations, FIFA strives to ensure that the conduct of football agents is consistent with the core objectives of the football transfer system as well as guaranteeing minimum professional and ethical standards for the occupation of football agents.
Any individual who wishes to conduct the services of a football agent will now need to obtain a Football Agent Licence from FIFA.
In order to obtain a licence, prospective agents must satisfy the eligibility requirements set out in the regulations, pay a fee, pass a licensing exam and comply with continuing professional development (CPD) requirements.
Once granted, the licence is valid worldwide, enabling the agent to provide agent services to players, clubs, coaches and associations across the globe.
Aside from regulating the conduct of football agents, the rules seek to protect and help players, coaches and clubs to obtain better and more transparent services from football agents that are licensed by FIFA.
Prior to engaging the services of a football agent, a player or club must ensure that they enter into a representation agreement between them, with the player or club being encouraged by the agent to have same reviewed by an independent lawyer.
Through the new regulations, FIFA now prohibits football agents from representing more than one party in any given transaction, putting to an end potential conflicts of interest arising.
As an exception to this rule, a football agent can represent a player and club if both parties expressly agree in writing in advance of the transaction taking place.
At the same time, there is no limit on how many parties can be represented by any one agent. The rules regulate the manner in which service fees are payable to a football agent for the performance of football agent services as follows; a) when representing an Individual or engaging entity: based on the individual’s remuneration and b) when representing a releasing entity: based on the transfer compensation for the relevant transaction.
FIFA has also capped the amount of service fee that can be charged by agents. All service fee payments to football agents shall be made through the FIFA Clearing House in accordance with the FIFA Clearing House Regulations.
These measures help to protect the integrity of the sport, to guarantee financial transparency and to ensure the transfer system functions smoothly and efficiently.
FIFA has also introduced an Agents Chamber in the regulations, whereby it is authorised to determine disputes that might arise between agents and their clients.
This Chamber has been set up without prejudice to the right of a football agent or a client to seek redress before an ordinary court of law.
With the introduction of the new regulations, FIFA aims to have addressed all shortcomings concerning the football agent industry.
With the full coming into force taking place imminently, one hopes that the regulations will reap the fruits that they promise in the interests of fair play and the integrity of the sport.
At the same time, it is of vital importance that the regulations remain up to date with all the latest developments taking place within the sports industry.
Note: Dr Robert Dingli is a sports lawyer and Senior Associate at Dingli & Dingli Law Firm
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