FIFA has announced sweeping changes to its Football Agent Regulations (‘Regulations’) which cover agents operating in the international transfer system and all connected activities. Some regulations are already being enforced during a transition period which concludes on 1 October 2023. From this date, all remaining provisions will take effect.
There has been a period of deregulation since 2015 which polemically allowed individuals without qualifications, such as family members of players, to register as ‘intermediaries’ – a concept which replaced the traditional role of the ‘agent’. Multiple problems with this approach, mainly stemming from lack of oversight of agents’ qualifications and activities, prompted the new Regulations, which were finally approved in December 2022.
The Regulations have been deemed controversial and consist of far-reaching changes to the role of the regulated football agent, (including reintroducing the term ‘agent’ to replace ‘intermediary’). The changes partially mark a return to increased regulation and restrictions on who can become a registered agent, but crucially, largely differ from the pre-2015 framework and place FIFA, rather than national associations, firmly in control.
We have compiled a list of the 10 key changes you need to know.
Top 10 key changes
- Licence Fee: agents will need to pay an annual licence fee to FIFA. The payment of this fee is a requirement for continuing to act as a licensed agent. In addition, CPD requirements are to be complied with for the licence to continue indefinitely.
- Dual Representation: is still allowed, but with new payment rules. The main change is the ‘Client’ (usually the player) must pay the agent’s fees. However:
- The player can ask their club to deduct the agent’s service fee directly from their income;
- The player can authorise their club to pay the entire agent’s fees only if the player’s gross remuneration is less than USD200,000; and
- Where an agent acts for a player and club in the same transaction, the club can pay up to 50 per cent of the agent’s fees due for the transaction.There is no obligation for the club to pay if the Client is the player, but if the agent is only acting for the club, then the Client is responsible for payment of all fees.
- Fee Cap: there are new limits depending on the agent’s role in the transaction:
- Single representation (buyer club or player): up to 3 per cent of the player’s remuneration, or 5 per cent if remuneration is less than USD200,000;
- Dual representation (buyer club and player): up to 6 per cent of the player’s remuneration, or 10 per cent if remuneration is less than USD200,000; and
- Representing seller club: up to 10 per cent of the transfer fee.
- Disclosure: FIFA will publicly disclose a breadth of information, including:
- the names and details of all licensed agents;
- the Clients of each agent;
- the exclusivity and expiry date of each Representation Agreement (note these now need to be uploaded);
- which services each agent provides to each Client;
- sanctions imposed on agents and Clients; and
- details of Transactions, including the service fee amounts paid to agents.
- Commission: is now to be payable in quarterly instalments. FIFA Clearing House will handle all payments, which will allow FIFA to supervise the process and check for non-compliance with the letter or spirit of the Regulations and the separate FIFA Clearing House Regulations.
- Exclusive Representation Agreements: agents are now prohibited from approaching or entering into a Representation Agreement with a Client that has an existing exclusive Representation Agreement with another agent unless it is due to expire within two months.
- Coaches/Managers: are covered by the definition of ‘Client’ and so also subject to regulation by FIFA under its agency rules for the first time.
- Individual Agents: under the previous framework companies could be ‘intermediaries’ but under the Regulations only individuals can be agents. This is a considerable change for large agencies seeking to protect the talent they represent.
- FIFA Focus: FIFA will issue agent licences under the new regime. This is a change from both the pre-2015 regime where national associations had this role and the post-2015 regime where there was no mandatory licensing system. Prospective agents will also need to sit an exam set by FIFA, testing them on a broad range of FIFA regulatory documents. This may represent a significant challenge for many current agents for whom this has not previously been a requirement.
- Tribunal: the Regulations reintroduce FIFA’s ability to have oversight over disputes, creating an Agents Chamber of the Football Tribunal. However, this has non-exclusive jurisdiction and parties to the dispute can opt to use national courts instead if possible.
There are two other important points to note:
- Most of the rules do not come into force until 1 October 2023. The parts of the Regulations that are now active cover the registration and licensing of agents and certain points of interpretation; and
- Existing Representation Agreements which expire on or after 1 October 2023 will continue to be effective, even if they do not comply with the Regulations.
Whether you are a club, association, agency business or individual, Hamlins can help you to assess how the Regulations impact your operations and what changes you need to make. We can also help with other agency-related matters. This includes supporting agents who intend to take the new exam and updating agency agreements to comply with the Regulations and achieve your objectives.
If you would like a conversation to find out how we can help you, please contact Matthew Pryke.