As I wrote in part one of the article, there is currently no means for the football agent industry to mature and develop into a profession, despite the efforts (yet limited) of many in it .

The Retrograde Steps Taken by FIFA

In March 2015, FIFA took the decision (after almost 6 years of dithering and procrastination) to “abandon” the agents license, and whilst I accept it was by no means perfect,  the previous licensing system did at least provide some foundations for a regulated, if not professional industry.

Yet with the 2015 regulatory changes, the ‘bulk’ of the task was left to each National Football Association to regulate agent/intermediary activity in their own territories, yet this was still under a basic, even ‘dumbed-down‘ FIFA intermediary regulatory system. This new system remained, and effectively ‘handcuffed‘ the national associations in regards to what they could actually implement.

This has left a fractured, confused, contradictory and in some cases unregulated  system ; depending on which territory you are operating in around the world …… arguably to the detriment of all involved in football …….. and possibly leaving some in the agent industry asking the question “Would the Footballing World Be Better Without FIFA?).

Football Authorities Failure to Take Effective Responsibility

Now before I ‘take aim‘ here I must stress this is by no means a solitary criticism of any one of the Football Authorities, as for FIFA and their approach of “maximum control but minimum responsibility” I have already addressed this above.

The fact is that all of the various participants and ‘stakeholders’ involved in the industry (in England) should take a proportion of blame for not addressing the issues about the football agent industry and thus addressing the problems. In this, I include The FA (Football Association), The Premier League, The Football League, The PFA (players), UEFA, the agent associations, the clubs and the agent/intermediaries themselves …….. however what I wouldn’t do is say that any one of these entities alone should shoulder the total burden of trying to address the problems and issues surrounding the industry  ……. it is a joint responsibility (and I do note that at least the FA – Football Association has made some form of ‘effort’).

Flawed System for Regulation of Agents and Intermediaries

I mentioned previously that the agent regulations prior to April 2015 did provide participants with some form of framework for the rules and regulations governing the industry, however I think most of those people affected by these would agree they were by no means perfect.

The main flaw with the previous regulations was that they were only applicable to ‘authorised’ and ‘licensed’ agents, and therefore if someone was not ‘licensed and/or ‘authorised’, they were not effectively subject to the rules and regulations. In fact if the question was asked of the football authorities “what are you doing about unauthorised agents”, the answer was typically along the lines of well, we cant do anything, as they aren’t licensed/authorised”.

With that in mind I think you can see the overriding flaw in the system, and even if an authorised agent was suspended or banned for breaching the rules and regulations then arguably this would be advantageous to them, as they would no longer be subject to the regulations. Thus leaving myself and many others to question what is the point in being licensed/authorised as either an agent or intermediary.

The interesting thing to note is; what might the answer be to the question post April 2015 : “what are you doing about non-registered intermediaries?”, and I think the answer may well be the same “we cant do anything, as they aren’t registered’, ever get that feeling of deja vu ?

Lack of Resources for Governance & Enforcement

The failings of a flawed system are further cemented by the fact as I (and many others) see it, that the people tasked with trying to regulate the industry are under-resourced and do not (on their own) have the true powers to do anything that would encourage good practice and discourage bad.

Everyone moans at how bad agents are and how ‘football agents take money out of the game’, but as recently as 2015 the national football association in England (The FA) announced it was ‘restructuring’ and effectively cutting back on resources for the administration of football, arguably to plug gaps in the coaching network. Even to this extent the team primarily responsible with monitoring and governing agent activity was merged with another department and thus resources effectively reduced further.

Evolution, Maturing and Growing up from Industry to ProfessionI could go full rant here as to how the work of this team in effective governance could safeguard more funding for the likes of ‘grass-roots‘ football and how many bibs, cones and average coaches that would facilitate …. but that is for another time.

Now this begs the question as to what of the other football participants (apart from agents/intermediaries), who break the rules and regulations governing football agent and intermediary activity (e.g. players, clubs, managers, club officials and other third parties), and how they would be penalised and sanctioned.

It is not my place to question the penalties or sanctions made for these breaches on participants, but I think it safe to say many cases never reach a hearing due to a purported ‘lack of evidence’ (or maybe the will to pursue it), and those sanctions levied are pretty meagre when compared to the advantages gained from such breaches. Not surprising when you consider the lack of resources and powers afforded to the governance teams. From what I gather it is a frustrating barrier on them working collaboratively with other agencies and organisations affected directly and indirectly by matters; such as HMRC.

The ‘Football Families’ Failure to Encourage Good Practice Amongst Agents and Intermediaries

So taking into account the point above about the penalties and sanctions  for other participants breaching the agent/intermediary rules and regulations (e.g. entertaining and using an unlicensed agent) you would think it would be in their interests to encourage good practice.

Despite the apparent and reported constant grumbling and complaints from other participants and members of the football family about agents, a large proportion of them, it is safe to say have been, will be or (dare I suggest) are currently involved (either directly or indirectly) in breaches of the agent regulations and encouraging bad agent/intermediary practices.

It is summed up by a comment made to me by a former director of football at a Premier League club, which was something along the lines of “if it means us (the club) getting the player we want, we have to break the (agent) rules ; if we don’t; one of the others (rival clubs) will”.

So in summary if clubs, players, managers, club owners, club officials etc are so distressed and annoyed about bad agent activity ……… stop moaning, do something about it and stop facilitating and encouraging it.

Acceptance of an Industry ‘Status Quo’

In terms of the football agent industry I believe we reached a watershed moment last year (2015) when FIFA ‘abandoned’ the old regulations. The worlds football governing body effectively ‘waved the white flag’ and effectively ‘gave up’ trying to regulate football agents.

FIFA accepted that there were problems with football agents and the industry, and said the problems needed to be addressed; and what was their solution : (i) dumb down the regulations, and (ii) passed the ‘hot potato’ and all the responsibility to the national football associations.

Apparently renaming agents as intermediaries, and relaxing (if not ‘dumbing down’) the regulations made all the problems go away.

Yet on reflection, are FIFA alone in this apathetic approach in accepting the status quo and saying we cant solve this, so just let it continue. But the fact is, so have many others in the football family in effectively accepting all agents are bad so lets just ‘run with it’ , even ENCOURAGE BAD PRACTICE, and ultimately possible corruption.

Now I could accept the apathy if the problem was uncontrollable and couldn’t be addressed, but the fact is ‘it can’ and ‘should be’ : by agents, FIFA, confederations, associations, leagues, managers, clubs and also players. But the fact is, for most of these it is seen as a problem for them but not necessarily seen as their responsibility, but the responsibility of someone else …… WRONG ……. it is a shared responsibility.

By accepting the status quo now, that the industry is arguably corrupt, unethical and out of control this will just be accentuated if left to spiral yet further out of control.

Approach of ‘Burying Heads in the Sand’ and/or ‘Giving Up’

There is definitely a strategy amongst some football stakeholders and participants that they should just try and ignore the problems or that they have just ‘given up’, in the hope that the problems will just go away …………. news is : they wont!

The most shocking thing I have come across in recent years was the attitude of a well established and experienced agent/intermediary who previously was very much in favour of good practice, effective governance and developing a profession.

In effect, I think he had even given up on trying to encourage the development of the industry. Not to say that he would openly condone bad or unethical practice. His words to me were along the lines of “we were concerned about the old regulations going, but we’re ok, we haven’t seen much change to the contrary” …… does that mean the industry before the changes was acceptable ? ….. the answer is simply NO!

Attitude of ‘Doesn’t Affect Me’

I firmly believe that many are just waiting for something that affects them directly or indirectly in regards to the agent/intermediary industry.

For the individual it may be a ban, suspension, fine, points-deduction, disqualification or being the subject of negative exposure and subsequent ridicule in the media of being complicit in breaching the rules and regulations.

The more catastrophic scenario is something that seriously sends shock-waves through the football industry as a result (whether direct or indirect) of allowing an industry to spiral out of control. These may possibly include some of the following scenarios :

  • a strike of players orchestrated in some way through unregulated agent activity

  • a club going bankrupt due to fees owed to an agent (or related third party), or said agent exercising a majority influence over the club

  • unregulated third party ownership will lead to something bordering on slavery

  • players and performances in competitions and matches manipulated  through unregulated agent influence

So with all that in mind, what can be done about the problems?  Whilst by no means having all the answers, I do have a few concepts and ideas that may help to bring the industry back towards some form of order, and maybe some of them will convert the industry into a profession.

But will people listen, we will have to wait and see, some of them haven’t ……. well ………. NOT YET !!!!!