A successful footballer or footballing prospect throughout their career  will attract the attentions of many potential ‘representatives’ and subsequently receive approaches from many wishing to represent them – whether or not this be a direct or indirect approach.

So how does a player establish whether the approach is from a legal and/or registered agent?

  1. Although most associations issue a ‘hard-copy’ license card, there may be no guarantee that this is genuine – HOWEVER it should be requested to be seen by any player, club and/or club representative.
  2. Even if a license can be shown, the first resource to check on is the FIFA website which lists all licensed agents worldwide, however this is not an exhaustive list and does not include some licensed individuals (e.g. some registered lawyers).
  3. The second resource if the player is English, based in England or is approached by an English ‘agent’, is the agent list on The FA website which lists all licensed football agents allowed to operate in England.
  4. One of the above steps should enable the player to establish, in the majority of cases, whether the person making the approach to them is licensed or not. However, if there is any doubt it is always worthwhile asking the ‘agent’ which national football association they are registered to and then confirming this with the association in question.


Believe it or not some ‘agents’ who think they are licensed are not
(e.g. their license has expired).


So how do unlicensed intermediaries operate as agents?

The crux of the matter is to establish whether the individual is undertaking what is defined as ‘agency activity’. In essence the National Associations and FIFA decide what is and what isn’t deemed to be ‘agency activity’. Should an individual be adjudged to be undertaking ‘agency activity’, then action may be taken against those permitting the ‘unlicensed intermediary’ to operate , this may include for example the club, the player or even a club representative.


Can the agency or colleagues of a licensed agent undertake ‘agency activity’?

Within a sports agency there may be several employees all with different roles and responsibilities as is the case with most businesses.  However the agency itself may have as few as one licensed agent within its ranks, with other members of the team taking on their own roles and responsibilities, from for example, administration to scouting.

Just because there is a licensed agent within the company it does not necessarily permit other employees, directors or representatives of the company to undertake ‘agency activity’ as they are not licensed. Under current regulations it is the individual agent who is licensed and NOT the agency/company.

It is recognised that there are unlicensed parties undertaking ‘agency activity’, either as individuals and/or within an agency/company, and just some of the job titles they use are as follows:

 

  • Football Partner
  • Football Representative
  • Player Representation
  • Football Consultant
  • Player Consultant
  • Player Manager
  • (Football) Account Manager
  • Football Executive
  • Football Transfer Broker
  • Players’ Transfer Broker
  • Football Administrator
  • Director of Football
  • Scout
  • New Business Development
  • Head of Football
  • (Football) Client Manager

 

There is a clear definition that anyone involved in the administration of football contracts and footballer employment should be aware of, and that is ‘Fronting’.

Fronting is clearly defined in most (if not all) football agent rules and regulations and specifies that it is not permitted for a licensed agent to act as a front for an unlicensed entity (whether individual or company).

So if an unlicensed party undertook ‘agency activity’ on behalf of a licensed agent (e.g. in one of the roles listed above), or used a licensed agent to finalise any contract in an attempt to legitimise the activity, the licensed agent would be deemed to be a ‘front’ and thus be in breach of the rules and regulations and subsequently penalised.


Why Should Unlicensed Intermediaries be Avoided?

Whilst it may be argued that many unlicensed intermediaries undertake adequate ‘agency activity’ on behalf of their clients, to the extent where some may even adhere to the rules and regulations more adequately than some ‘licensed agents’, what happens when things go wrong?

Well firstly the breach of rules and regulation can not only be levied at the intermediary/agent, but at all those involved in facilitating the agency activity (e.g. player, club, manager, coach, scout) and subsequently penalised as such.

In addition to this there is no protection for the party for whom the unlicensed intermediary is representing (e.g. player and/or club), as they are not governed by any such regulations and thus cannot lose their license and penalties are somewhat limited. All licensed agents as part of their licensing agreement with their association and FIFA have to prove that they have adequate Professional Indemnity Cover/Insurance to protect themselves and their clients should anything go wrong. Subsequently, unlicensed intermediaries tend to have no such protection for the client. Finally there is the argument that if you are unlicensed and to an extent somewhat unregulated, how many truly act in the best interests of their client and the game as a whole, if they effectively have no rules and regulations?


Regulating and Penalising Unlicensed Intermediaries

It remains a difficult if not impossible task for the footballing authorities to manage unlicensed intermediaries, as without them being licensed, what can be proved and what subsequent actions can be taken?

Although it may be very difficult to establish what action can be taken against the unlicensed intermediary whether or not they operate within the agency regulations set out by FIFA and the associations, action can still be taken against a regulated individual whether this be a player, club, club representative or even a licensed agent.

Many of those involved in football agree that unlicensed intermediaries are a core problem in the ‘modern game’, but what can be done, short of those who are regulated working together?

** NOTE : This document refers to ‘Licensed Agents’ and ‘unlicensed intermediaries’, the purpose being is that there is technically no such thing under current rules and regulations as an ‘unlicensed agent’ or a ‘licensed intermediary’.