German Court of Appeal ruling limits regulation of player agents, further undermines FIFA’s non-interference rule

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By Mark Baber

March 16 – In a suit brought by a commercial player agency against the German Football Federation (DFB), the Court of Appeal sitting in Frankfurt has struck down various provisions of the governing bodies regulations on player agents.

According to Lexology’s report on the court’s February 2 judgement, a number of provisions of the DFB regulations have been held to restrict competition without legitimate justification, including the requirement that player agents comply with the statutes and requirements of FIFA, UEFA the DFB and its member associations. The court held that it would be impossible for agents to obtain reasonable knowledge of the full range of regulations which included at least 35 different statutes and 30 different jurisdictions.

The Court also ruled that player agents will no longer be required to submit an “extended certificate of good conduct” as it is not part of their job to come into regular contact with children or juveniles.

The DFB regulation prohibiting agents from receiving lump sum remuneration based on a certain percentage of the transfer fee was also struck down.

Despite these victories for player agents, certain DFB regulations were upheld – including the prohibition of payments to agents in transfers of underage players which the Court held was necessary to prevent such transfers happening for financial reasons.

The Court also held that DFB regulations requiring disclosure of contracts, agreements and arrangements with agents, including complete details of all agreed remuneration, were valid as they facilitate the important goal of transparency in player recruitment.

According to Lexology, the Court’s judgement “once again shows that sport associations are also subject to antitrust law if they seek to regulate economic issues.”

It is worth noting that, despite player transfer regulations being subject to major reform by FIFA in recent years and FIFA’s non-interference rule, there have been no cries of “government interference” from the DFB following the ruling, underlining that the principle of non-interference in football matters by Courts really does not apply in European countries.

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