An analysis of The FA Football Agents Regulations and the RFU Regulation 8 (Agents) – Part 1

Published 16 January 2014 | Authored by: Charles Maurice

In this two part blog, Charles Maurice reviews The Football Association’s (“The FA”) and the Rugby Football Union’s (“RFU”) agent regulations. In part one, Charles highlights the similarities between the regulations and in part two he goes onto look at the subtle differences between them.

Everybody loves to hate agents. Everybody loves to hate lawyers. Snap! In a fit of solidarity I thought it might be interesting to a take a brief look at the rules and regulations which provide a framework within which agents must operate in two major sports in the UK: Football and Rugby (both sports that are dear to my heart - Crystal Palace and Cardiff Blues, if you're asking). When people think of agents, the immediate response is a wary one, only if due to the large sums of money agents are seen to make on the higher profile deals. The reality is subtly different, and for every high profile deal (be that a transfer or another commercial deal), there are many others which involve much smaller sums of money or are unsuccessful altogether. Equally, there are a number of agents whose representative services go far further than simply negotiating the best deals – many 'good' agents also aim to maximise the welfare of their clients, whether through ensuring a thorough exploitation of a client's commercial worth for the limited time of their career or through helping to manage the public-facing elements of a client's image (tip: treat twitter with care!).

The representative sports industry is a varied one, and one which, at its best, enables athletes to concentrate on their sporting achievements. Like many people, I really enjoy the ready availability of sport for the watcher, but am very aware of how this also comes at a price – the commercialisation of sport – which in my view is, for the most part, a price worth paying. As the global profile of Rugby has grown, so too has the profile of its top players, such that the same types of commercial issues arise in Rugby as they do in Football, even if the monetary values are often disparate. With that comes a greater role for the Rugby agent to match their Footballing counterparts. RFU Regulation 8 (the "RFU Regs") sets out the framework under which Rugby agents must operate in England (the rules are the same for the other home unions and stem from the underlying IRB rules), and the increased role for the Rugby agent begs the question as to whether these rules are adequate moving forward, or whether they ought to be revised to be in line with the far more comprehensive (and often nebulous) The FA Football Agents Regulations ("The FA Regs"), which in turn attract their own set of critics that question if they actually work at all.

 

General similarities

Let's start with some of the similarities. Both sets of regulations are designed (explicitly or implicitly) to breed transparency and safeguard the game to which they relate (indeed the RFU Regs say as much in their preamble) and are a set of rules to which each agent must adhere. The rules also apply to clubs and players, and it is certainly possible under each set of rules for players and clubs to face sanctions for a breach.

The registration process under each set of regulations is also similar (if not the same). Aside from the test that agents must sit, under each set of regulations agents must show that they have a sufficiently good reputation to hold their position as agent. Under the FA Regs (Appendix 2) this is posed as an obligation to satisfy The FA from time to time on such terms as it requires, including criminal history, satisfaction of the 'fit and proper persons' test and a rather free-range "any history of dealings...which [The FA] may consider relevant to [the agent's] acceptability". This gives The FA a very broad measure of discretion over who is allowed to become a licensed agent. Likewise the position under the RFU Regs (Reg 8.5) is similar (although without direct reference to a 'fit and proper persons' concept), and the RFU is given wide leeway (through unquantifiable requirements such as observance by the agents of the "highest standard of dignity") to reject or bring an end to an agent's registration.

Both sets of regulations give The FA and RFU respectively a measure of control over the terms of the appointment between club/player and agent.1 and in each case, the representation agreement has to contain (as a minimum) certain key designated clauses which are fundamental to the way the relationship must operate (i.e. control is thus retained over key elements such as how payments are made and the termination provisions). Additionally, the maximum term of a representation agreement under both sets of regulations is two years, which is designed to prevent players from becoming locked into long-term, underperforming arrangements.

Finally, (and without wishing to dwell on listing out provisions), the provisions dealing in each set of regulations for a breach of the regulations are both similarly widely drafted – The FA can issue warnings, report the agent to FIFA, suspend or withdraw the agent's licence or issue a fine, whilst the RFU2 can impose such sanctions and fines as it sees fit in addition to its rights to withdraw an agent's registration.

In part two he goes onto look at the subtle differences between the two sets of agent regulations.

 

AUTHOR COMMENT:

The above is obviously a short form look at both sets of regulations, and both do, to a degree, spell out what is at least a detailed intent of how the relevant governing bodies are trying to deal with this somewhat controversial area. I would be interested in hearing reader's views on any of the above or the rules in particular, perhaps specifically whether anyone considers that the RFU Regs are likely to need to catch up with a growing sport and what the key catalyst for any such change might be.

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About the Author

Charles Maurice

Charles Maurice

Charlie is a senior associate at Stevens & Bolton LLP and specialises in the sports, media and entertainment sectors. Charlie advises on a wide range of sporting issues and has particular experience in the motor racing and football industries. 

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