December 1 – A court has ruled that FIFA’s new agency rules cannot be legally applied in the UK, putting the global rollout of the rules in their current into question. FIFA could end up shelving them completely while they lick their wounds from the legal loss.
FIFA’s new rules were intended to regulate player agents and cap transfer fees at 10% and limit the commissions to 3% of a player’s salary when those earnings are more than $200,000 per year, or 5% when the player earns up to $200,000. Those limits would be 6% and 10%, respectively, when the agent acted for both the player and the club signing them.
FIFA had won a challenge against their proposed rules at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but has now lost under civil law in the UK, following a decision by the commercial court of Madrid in November that ruled to prevent the FIFA and the RFEF implementing the rules.
The significance of the UK decision for FIFA is because of the huge percentage of transfers that involve big fees that involve an English entity.
With the rules not applicable in England, then the rolling out of them worldwide becomes a pointless and less than equitable exercise.
FIFA will now likely continue with the suspension of the rollout of the rules while they revisit the issues the new rules were intended to address.
At the top of that list of concerns is that FIFA wanted to curb the wilder some of the huge fees paid to agents in a trading market that saw more than $600 million paid to a relatively small number of agents from international transfer deals in 2022.
FIFA also wanted to prevent agents representing both the buying and selling clubs in a transfer for the obvious reasons of preventing manipulation of market pricing, and ultimately steering clear of potential money laundering, as well as protecting vulnerable players.
FIFA would also have positioned themselves as a player in the financial and banking business by mandating that fees would have been paid through FIFA’s Paris-based financial clearing house.
FIFA said this would bring more transparency to the transfer market that many believe too often skirts close to the edge of criminality. Agents countered that it would also bring risks to confidentiality.
The challenge to FIFA’s rules was brought by a group of Britain’s biggest player agencies, including CAA Stellar and ICM.
Player agency group, The Football Forum, congratulated their president Jonathan Barnett of CAA Stellar for “this success of paramount importance for all agents.”
When announcing the agency rules FIFA said they were designed to be a work in progress and that they would likely evolve with the transfer market.
Agents can expect further moves by FIFA to regulate their business and operational practices, but for the moment those with the biggest clients commanding the biggest fees will still collect huge – perhaps obsequious fees – from a game that prides itself on being for everyone.
FIFA has yet to make comment on the UK court decision.
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