European Football Agents Association Wants to End Malpractice in the (International) Transfer of Players

Article excerpt

The number of players' agents has grown explosively since the Bosman case. The huge circulation of money and players' ever-increasing wages can mean it is a simple step to accuse agents of being involved in malpractice and criminal activities. The recently established European Football Agents Association believes that the current system of regulation does not halt transfer-related problems. The participation of players' agents in regulating their profession is a prerequisite for avoiding unprofessional conduct.

The definitive emancipation of footballers came about in the wake of the Bosman case. The activities of players' agents were augmented in direct relation to the players' renewed status. The considerable circulation of money in the international football world, and more specifically the players' wages, led to players' agents being linked to malpractice. Various reports and the media portray players' agents as questionable individuals involved in trafficking young players, money laundering, corruption and other serious criminal activities. World football's governing body FIFA announced it would curb such activities, issuing regulations governing the activities of players' agents. The third version of these regulations came into force on 1 January 2008.

The aim of these regulations is to safeguard professionalism, to protect players in their short careers and to guarantee transparency of payment methods and fees. FIFA introduced several rigorous articles in their new regulations to achieve this aim. Since 1 January 2008 licences are no longer valid indefinitely. After five years the players' agent will need to undergo a new examination to retain his licence and to continue exercising his profession. The severity of this rule is apparent. Without a licence an agent is unable to represent players, so not only does his business run a serious risk, but assisting players would become more difficult. Other agents will be tempted to pursue his players should an agent lose his licence. Contracts between agents and players will contain clauses for unilateral breach where the agent fails his exam. These are just a few of the obvious difficulties arising from these regulations. But such consequences will not end malpractice definitively; on the contrary, the malpractice environment is both created and worsened. The re-examination is far too rigorous in relation to its aim. A form of permanent education would better serve the purpose of guaranteeing professionalism and knowledge of developments than a once-off 'check' every five years with the danger of closing your business if you fail the test.

These regulations would be more readily acceptable to agents if they produced uniformity and protected the profession and professional activities. But the inclusion of an article on 'exempt individuals' means the regulations only affect licensed agents negatively. Unlicensed agents can use lawyers to legalise their activities. Unlicensed agents may carry out their profession with impunity and clubs are allowed to work with them freely, categorising some of their activities as 'scouting' or 'consultancy'. When the moment arrives for concrete negotiations, the unlicensed agent simply 'buys' the lawyer's signature. Many individuals operate these practices, the main advantage being that they do not fall under FIFA jurisdiction and are therefore completely free in their activities. These agents are thus able to propagate those malpractices, and because they are invisible it is the identifiable group of agents--those who do hold a licence--who are held responsible for these malpractices. This negative image affects all licensed agents.

Is FIFA allowed to draft these regulations? This is a commonly heard question. It becomes increasingly clear at the individual state level, that FIFA as a sport-governing body lacks the public authority to exercise such legislative powers. …