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A Guide to the new FIFA Agent Regulations For Football Agents & Clubs

Man in suit with football in hand
Thursday, 12 January 2023 By Carol Couse, Rustam Sethna, Mark Dennis

The 2023 FIFA Football Agent Regulations (the “FFAR”) have perhaps been the most anticipated (and contested) piece of sports law regulation in recent years; and with good reason. The FFAR signals the return of FIFA’s regulation of football agents who had, since 2015, been effectively deregulated by FIFA.

The regime surrounding the regulation of agents has been through various iterations over the last three decades.

Most notably (and most recently), FIFA took steps to “de-regulate” agents internationally, with the FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (the “Intermediary Regulations”), which came into force on 1 April 2015.

Since then, FIFA has adopted a de-centralised approach towards regulating what they called “intermediaries”, introducing minimum standards for clubs, players and national federations to comply with, but leaving each national federation to regulate agents as they saw fit. 

This led to:

  • Global inconsistencies; where different associations adopted different approaches to licensing and regulation – some introducing their own licensing process dictated by requirements of national law (e.g. France and Italy), with others adopting a simple and easily achievable registration process for those who wished to operate as ‘intermediaries’ (e.g. England);
  • A perceived lack of quality control; creating an environment in which individuals were able to enter the industry with relative ease and broker deals for large sums of money, sometimes at the perceived expense of professional ethics; and
  • An inability to impose appropriate sanctions at an international level, such as fines, suspensions and termination of agent registrations, thereby perpetuating unethical and unfair practices.

It hasn’t all been bad news however, and there have been several positive outcomes from FIFA’s decision to de-regulate, such as:

  • An increase in the number of player families/relatives acting as intermediaries/agents for players, given there was no distinction, under the Intermediary Regulations, between them and formerly licensed agents;
  • The absence of a centralised and standardised licensing system (conditional upon passing an exam and securing professional indemnity insurance), reduced barriers to entry, enabled a “free-market” and (arguably) healthier competition.
  • National federations were able to take control (in some instances) of matters in their own jurisdiction to police inappropriate conduct, something FIFA at the time did not have the appetite nor the capacity to do.

Road to reform

In 2017, FIFA established the Football Stakeholders Committee (the “FSC”), which included confederations, member associations, FIFPRO, the European Club Association, the World Leagues Forum and other stakeholders of professional football.  The idea behind the FSC was to implement various changes to the football transfer system in a phased manner.

In September 2019, FIFA announced its intention to re-regulate and license agents[1], as part of its package of reforms.  Information on what this system would look like has evolved over the last three years, and the FFAR was approved by the FIFA Council on 16 December 2022, completing a full circle of regulation, de-regulation and re-regulation of football agents, internationally.

Article 1.2 of the FFAR sets out FIFA’s objectives behind regulating Football Agents[2]. These are:

“a) Raising and setting minimum professional and ethical standards for the occupation of Football Agent;

b) Ensuring the quality of service provided by Football Agents to Clients at fair and reasonable service fees that are uniformly applicable;

c) Limiting conflicts of interest to protect Clients from unethical conduct;

d) Improving financial and administrative transparency;

e) Protecting players who lack experience or information relating to the football transfer system;

f) Enhancing contractual stability between players, coaches and clubs; and

g) Preventing abusive, excessive and speculative practices”.

The FFAR is set to enter into force in a phased manner, with Articles 1-10 and 22-27, which generally relate to processes for obtaining a licence, taking effect on 9 January 2023, and the remaining articles (which generally relate to acting as a football agent, and the obligations of football agents and their clients) coming into force on 1 October 2023.

This article will discuss and comment on:

  1. Scope of the FFAR
  2. Key changes brought about by the FFAR, with comments on potential practical and implementation issues

Index:

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Written by

Carol Couse

Carol Couse

Carol is a Partner in the sports team at Mills & Reeve LLP , with extensive in-house and in private practice experience of dealing with sports regulatory matters, whether contentious or non-contentious, including in respect of all legal issues pertaining to football.  She has represented clients before dispute resolution and disciplinary bodies of the Premier League, The FA, UEFA, FIFA and the CAS.

As a Spanish speaker, Carol frequently advises top athletes, agents, and clubs in Spain and Latin America. Carol is regularly invited to lecture at universities and conferences all over the world, publishes articles on a wide variety of sport-related matters, and often provides comments and analysis on legal issues in sport for the BBC, the Times, the Guardian, the New York Times, Sky Sports, ESPN and others.

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Rustam Sethna

Rustam Sethna

Rustam is an Associate on the sports law team at Mills & Reeve LLP, focusing on sports disputes and regulatory matters. He holds a master’s in International Sports Law from ISDE (Madrid) and is also a member of the Disciplinary Panel at England Boxing and the Anti-Doping Committee at the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation.
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Mark Dennis

Mark recently joined Mills & Reeve and has over 15 years' experience working for different stakeholders within the sport and media industry. In particular, he has extensive knowledge of regulatory matters relating to football. He has developed a reasonably unique skillset having worked for the FA, clubs at Premier League and EFL level and most recently a football agency, which has provided Mark with an all-round knowledge of scenarios that arise within the football landscape. He has also built valuable relationships with the regulatory divisions of the FA, Premier League and EFL, alongside those at numerous clubs and agencies.

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