FIFA’s new agent rules in the balance as UK court set to deliver a merit ruling

November 15 – A UK court ruling is expected in the next 10 days that could ultimately determine the fate of the new FIFA agent rules.

The case, brought against FIFA by a group if UK based agents including CAA, Stellar and ICM, is awaiting a merit decision on whether the new rules can be enforced under English law.

If the decision falls in FIFA’s favour then the rules will be rolled out worldwide, if it is against FIFA, then FIFA will have to return to the drawing board.

FIFA has currently suspended enforcing the implementation of the new rules while the UK case is waiting for judgement.

Daniel Geey, a partner in the sports group at Sheridans law firm in London, speaking on a panel of legal experts at the Soccerex convention in Miami, said: “With so many of the transfers of value taking place in the UK, it is hard to see FIFA being in a position, or wanting to enforce the rules worldwide (if they lose the decision).”

At the heart of the agents’ complaint is the stipulation in the new FIFA rules that agents can now only charge 3% commission of the player’s salary as an agency fee, and that their fee has to be paid by the player they are representing rather than the club.

Agents, as part of their new FIFA definition, have also been limited to completing transfer agreements and employment contracts. Any other activity performed for players – like financial services or sponsorship deals – are considered to be outside the scope of the agency and charged separately at market rates.

Geey pointed out that the change can have the unintended impact of hurting players.

“There are a few problems and one of them is tax. The players have to pay their agents out of net earnings rather than gross, so they are immediately penalised,” said Ghee.

“And with FIFA circumscribing the activity of agents they could be opening the players up to all kinds of unlicensed groups and advisors.” The point being that the players no longer have the protection of agents in areas in which they have no expertise, hence making them vulnerable.

While agents are generally portrayed as a necessary evil by media and the football public over the huge amounts of money they can earn from commission fees, limiting those fees to 3% is not going to generate much sympathy.

But the reality is that most agents don’t generate multi-million dollar fees, but do offer a range of services for their clients.

Jose Martin of Squires Patton Boggs, based in Miami, said “outside of Europe there is really not much outrage at the regulations… it is really a European issue for now”.

Enric Ripoll who runs his own law firm, ER Sports, backed Martin up. “A report by Fifpro in 2017 highlighted that 75% of players earned less than $1,000 a month. An agent with 15 or 20 players is not going to be making huge amounts of money at that level. FIFA is attacking their own agents.”

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