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What current legal matters are important to know about the football agent industry?


“The World of Football Agents“ is a research paper series which analyses that very question from the perspective of football agents and sports lawyers. Our first edition contains Belgium, France, Italy, the USA and Honduras.


This paper is part of PROFAA‘s effort to improve football and contribute to its good governance. We hope you'll enjoy reading it!


Follow the link below to download the report ⬇⬇


The World of Football Agents (PROFAA REP
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Updated: Jul 9

The things that all football agents must know!


How can I become a football agent?

A football agent (or soccer agent) is no specific type of person – this profession is by no means restricted to any gender, age group or environment. As it currently stands, the 2015 FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries are the most relevant for agents to get licensed today. Whilst FIFA have their own set of rules that they require a potential intermediary to follow, much power lies with the individual country’s football association, as each nation has their own set of rules to be adhered to. All of the main footballing federations have slightly different procedures. All of the necessary rules for registering as an intermediary (in any country) can also be found by reading the relevant association’s rules on their website.[1]

Interesting fact: Throughout the last years, football’s main governing body (FIFA), has held several meetings in order to discuss the rules and regulations concerning football agents. In Zurich in April 2018, a select group of agents were asked to attend a workshop in order to give their first-hand experience. The list of intermediaries present include Paddy Dominguez, as well as Dr. Erkut Sögüt. The importance of keeping updated with FIFA’s meetings is that it will likely end in a change of the football agent regulations.

FIFA holds talks with agents on possible revision of football intermediaries system“:

To read the full article about the FIFA consultation workshops with intermediaries, follow this link.

Which reform proposals are in discussion by FIFA?

The reform package includes several measures concerning agents:

  • establishment of a cap on commissions to avoid excessive and abusive practices;

  • limitation of multiple representation to avoid conflicts of interest;

  • reintroduction of a mandatory licensing for agents to raise professional standards;

  • creation of a FIFA Clearing House to guarantee better financial transparency;

  • establishment of an effective FIFA dispute resolution system to address disputes between agents, players and clubs;

  • disclosing and publishing all agent-related work in transfers, to increase transparency, improve the credibility of the transfer system and support the implementation of new regulations.[2]

On this account the Professional Football Agents Association is currently working on certified football agent education courses in order to provide intermediaries with the educational requirements in the future and professionalising the game.

To read the news about the reform proposals of FIFA concerning football agents' regulations, you can visit this website:

FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association)

As explained, the FIFA rules of 2015 regarding football intermediaries must be followed closely, and in conjunction with the footballing association which you are part of. FIFA mentions the following requirements:

1. Any ‘natural person’ (individual human being) must have an impeccable reputation and sign the ‘Intermediary Declaration for Natural Persons’;

2. Any ‘legal person’ (private or public organisation) must have an impeccable reputation and sign the ‘Intermediary Declaration for Legal Persons’;

3. Intermediaries are to have no contractual relationship with leagues, associations, confederations or FIFA that could lead to a potential conflict of interests;

4. The contract of representation (between an intermediary and club or player) must be authenticated by the association.

What does a football intermediary/agent do?

Despite there being a certain perception that the football agent profession is simple and straightforward, it is a job that requires you to be active all the time and encompasses different tasks each and every day. Gregory Ioannidis from the Sheffield Hallam University describes being a football agent/intermediary as following: “The role of a football agent in modern society is multifaceted, and it cannot be limited only to negotiations leading to the transfer of a player between two clubs. If done appropriately and in a professional manner, it requires the agent to perform a series of different functions such as scouting, counselling, assistance with financial/tax services, evaluation and execution of image rights and the securing of sponsorship/marketing opportunities. Such functions are largely unknown, at least to the public, but they play an important role towards maximisation of the player’s commercial and employment opportunities.”[3]


How do I work with youth players?

Stemming from FIFA regulations, there are very strict rules concerning agents working with youth players and minors. Much like the registration processes (Chapter 2), the football associations all have slightly different rules, yet they are all focused on protecting the young players, with strict punishment (for agents and clubs) if these regulations are not adhered to. With the growth of youth footballing talent around the world leading to more scouts and more transfers, there is increasing monitoring of these policies by football federations. Before any work with minors can be done, you have to be registered. The governing body of football – FIFA – has a fixed set of guidelines regarding minors that must be obeyed by all agents/intermediaries within the 211 member countries:[4]

  1. Players can only be transferred internationally over the age of eighteen;

  2. The only exceptions (to Rule 1) are those concerning familial, academic or geographical issues – however, a transfer of a player aged sixteen to eighteen can take place within the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), whilst arranging education and accommodation;

  3. The Players’ status Committee has the power to rule on disputes and impose punishments if these regulations are not abided by.


Summary:

  • The most crucial point regarding youth rules is to always act on the side of caution – the first port of call when trying to find the necessary regulations should be the relevant association’s website, and contacting a representative is greatly advised.

  • The punishment for not following the rules correctly can be extremely serious – breaking the law, especially when concerning minors, must be avoided.

Which types of transfers are existing?

Permanent transfer (with transfer agreement)

The type of transfer conducted when a player is permanently engaged by a new club and a transfer agreement is signed by the new club and the former club.

Loan

The type of transfer conducted when a professional player is temporarily engaged by a new club on the basis of a loan agreement during the term of his/her employment contract with the former club.

Out of contract (‘free agents‘)

The type of transfer conducted when a player signs for a new club when he/she is not contractually bound to any former club and no transfer agreement exists. The players are able to sign with any club they want to, with no transfer fee having to be paid. There are four possible reasons for the player’s previous contract termination: the contract with the former club has expired; the contract with the former club was terminated unilaterally; the player mutually agreed an early termination with his/her former club; the player was not under contract with his/her former club, i.e. he/she was an amateur. [5]

Which contracts are necessary for an intermediary?


Registered Intermediaries are required to use representation contracts containing, as a minimum, all obligatory terms of the relevant standard representation contracts when acting in a Transaction. Dealing with contracts and negotiations can be quite complex. This is the reason why contacting lawyers to help you with contract matters could be a good option.

Representation contract

In order to legitimately represent a player, there has to be a valid Representation Contract between you and your client as well as, of course, being registered as an intermediary (see Chapter 1 for details). This agreement, which is valid for two years until it needs to be renewed, is an extremely important part of the entire process. The Representation Contract is normally agreed alongside the agent’s fee (a certain percentage of the player’s salary as agreed by the Employment Contract) and includes a portion of the signing-on fee whilst usually excluding other bonuses like goals or appearances. The recognised norm that an agent receives is up to 10% of a client’s gross salary per year, but this varies greatly depending on each club, player and agent.[6]

Some football federations provide standard representation contracts on their website where they can be downloaded. The FA is one of these associations, you can download the intermediary representation contract in the following link.

A robust representation contract which sets out the relationship between player and agent is vital. The representation contract will include the following elements which agents and player need to understand, including that:

a) The contract is for the maximum two years possible under the rules, to ensure that players are not ties to an agent for too long.

b) The contract is exclusive (as far as legally possible in particular countries) so that, during the length of the contract, no other agent can represent the player.

c) The agent has the power to represent the player when negotiating transfers, employment contracts and commercial deals.

d) The commission rate for negotiating a player’s new contract transfer can be between 3% and 10% of the player’s total salary. However, when negotiating commercial deals, agents are usually entitled to receive between 15-20% of the value of the endorsement agreement.[7]

[1] Sögüt, E., Pentol-Levy, J., Pentol-Levy, C. How to Become a Football Agent: The Guide: 2nd Edition (2019). [2] https://www.fifa.com/who-we-are/news/reform-proposals-concerning-football-agents-regulations [3] Ioannidis, G. Football intermediaries and self-regulation: the need for greater transparency through disciplinary law, sanctioning and qualifying criteria. Int Sports Law J 19, 154–170 (2019) [4] Sögüt, E., Pentol-Levy, J., Pentol-Levy, C. How to Become a Football Agent: The Guide: 2nd Edition (2019). [5] According to FIFA TMS report 2019. [6] Sögüt, E., Pentol-Levy, J., Pentol-Levy, C. How to Become a Football Agent: The Guide: 2nd Edition (2019). [7] Geey, Daniel (Sports Lawyer), in: Sögüt, E., Pentol-Levy, J., Pentol-Levy, C. How to Become a Football Agent: The Guide: 2nd Edition (2019).