When you employ the services of a professional adviser whether it be your solicitor (lawyer), financial adviser, doctor or your car mechanic you expect them to know what they are talking about regardless of them having the tools and authority to do the job.

So what is the difference with a football agent when so many fail to know the rules and fail to recognise the rules …….. or do they ?

Through a very reliable source last week I was told about a very experienced and ‘respected’ agent who had allegedly been guilty of not knowing one of the most basic rules governing the transfer of players ….. or did he !!!
The out of contract player in question was allegedly misinformed by his long standing agent that he should make up his mind quickly over a contract offer, as once the transfer window closed 7 days later he would not be able to sign for a club until the transfer window reopened 3 months later, thus sacrificing a period of pay and a playing opportunity.

The Rules
Amongst the plethora of rules and regulations governing football on not just a national but an international level one of the most straightforward rules governing the transfer of out of contract players is that regarding player transfers and registration periods :

FIFA – Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players
Article 6 – Para 1
Players may only be registered during one of the two annual registration periods fixed by the relevant association. As an exception to this rule, a professional whose contract has expired prior to the end of a registration period may be registered outside that registration period.

Surely This Is Basics
It was fortunate that a third party who knew the player personally chose to check with myself about the (mis)information the player was allegedly being given by his agent.

When I was first asked the question, I have to be honest and started to question my immediate response that the information was incorrect, and even had to double check that the ruling on the registration of out of contract (free-agent / unattached players) was one of the most clear and basic rules. After checking the information it confirmed that I was correct and subsequently I was more shocked at the misinformation the ‘reputed’ agent had allegedly given his long standing player-client.

So did the agent know what he was doing in allegedly passing this information and placing a matter of urgency in the mind of his client, or was it just a total lack of basic knowledge? Whichever is the case, it doesn’t matter as the football agent in question has proven themselves incapable of acting in the basic interests of their client (the main ‘rule’ governing FIFA player agents).

Was There an Ulterior Motive ?
Although I believe it may be more a case of the agent in question not knowing the basic rules and regulations, I cannot help but wonder whether there was an ulterior motive for the agent in question allegedly misinforming their client, as they are an established and ‘respected’ football agent.

The reputation and integrity of Football Agents is regularly doubted and brought into question, and if it’s the case that this was deliberate misinformation, could it be influenced by such factors of an increased signing on fee if the player signed quickly or even the opportunity to extend the players representation contract thus benefitting the agent more than the player?

We can only guess what the motive was (if any), but if it was deliberate misinformation it would still be very difficult for the player in question to escape from his contract with the agent until the contract expired or a clear breach is identified. This would possibly leave the player not being able to use an alternative agent and still be paying the existing agent although allegedly being misrepresented and misinformed.

Was It A Lack of Basic Knowledge ?
Approximately 5 years ago FIFA, and subsequently the Football Association, implemented the 2-part written exam for the licensing of Players Agents in addition to the standard requirements that were already in place (e.g. PI Insurance, CRB and Fit and Proper tests). This was maybe to help impose a standard of basic quality and knowledge amongst licensed agents when it came to their knowledge of the game and its rules and regulations.
We are approaching a ‘water-shed’ moment with regards to the written exam, as before the exam was introduced those agents already licensed would be given a period (initially 5 years) whereby they could remain licensed and operate without the requirement of sitting the agent’s exam.

In my own mind this has been a fair approach, as to retract an operating agent’s license could irreversibly damage their business, income and livelihood.

However it has left two distinct ‘licensed agent camps’ in England, in those that have sat the exam, and those which haven’t (yet) : and it is no surprise that those agents who haven’t sat the exam don’t want to, and those that have sat the exam (like myself), believe everyone should sit the exam, and subsequently sit a revised exam every 5 years so as to help ensure licensed Player Agents have the basic knowledge of the rules and regulations of not only FIFA but also The FA.

In Summary – Do All Football Agent’s Know The Rules ?
HOWEVER for those Licensed Player Agents who haven’t sat the written exam, how many of those agents actually have adequate knowledge of the basic rules and regulations?
From the story above even some of the most established agents are woefully short of basic knowledge that crucially affects the career and livelihood of their client players.