FIFA suspends new agent rules ahead of transfer window but waits for final ECJ ruling

January 2 – In a significant climbdown on the eve of the winter transfer window, FIFA has temporarily shelved its entire global rollout of reforms designed to regulate agents’ fees.

FIFA had won a challenge against their proposed rules at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) but the regulations were suspended just 36 hours before the opening of the European window.

The move followed a series of arbitration hearings and court judgements in the UK, Germany and Spain which deemed the proposed restrictions to be unlawful because they broke competition law.

The rules were intended to regulate player agents and cap transfer fees at 10% as well as limiting 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 wanted to curb some of the huge fees paid to agents and prevent them representing both the buying and selling clubs. But with the rules deemed unapplicable in three big European football nations, rolling them out worldwide became untenable and implementation will now be delayed until the case is heard by the European Court of Justice.

FIFA had already said it would comply with a court injunction issued in Germany by suspending the implementation of the regulations for any transfers with links to the European Union. But this has now been extended worldwide.

In a letter sent to member federations on Saturday, FIFA justified the scrapping of its rules by saying it had to “protect competitive balance at a worldwide level” but added it had already launched an appeal.

A FIFA statement read: “On 30 December 2023 the Bureau of the Council approved the worldwide temporary suspension of the FFAR (FIFA Football Agent Regulations) affected by the German court decision, until the European Court of Justice renders a final decision in the pending procedures concerning the FFAR.

“FIFA remains convinced that the FFAR are a necessary, proportionate and fully legal regulatory step to address systemic failures within the international transfer system.”

FIFA originally unveiled the rule changes last January before they were formally introduced in October. They included a written exam for licensed agents as well as a limit on the amounts to be charged to clients.  As a result, some agents have reportedly been operating with reduced commissions and FIFA now face the prospect of a hefty legal bill to regain lost earnings.

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