What are the initial proposals from the ‘FIFA Football Stakeholders Committee’ in the framework for the regulation and licensing of Football Agents and Intermediaries?

It is fair to say that we could well be seeing imminent changes to the football agent (intermediary) regulations yet again, not just in England through The FA, but also globally through FIFA. This is not based solely on media speculation, statements from FIFA (and FA) official, rumours and hearsay in the industry, but on the fact that I am fortunate enough to have been privy to some of the initial proposals and suggestions to be mooted by FIFA and the FA.


Please note this information and the subsequent analysis does not emanate officially and/or directly from FIFA, but from various sources who have been able to relay the outline of discussions and subsequent proposals thus far.

So why are we here again?
Well it is About Time!

Whilst I cannot disagree with those who may say it is about time FIFA, the confederations and most of the national football associations (including The FA in England) admit their failings and errors in abandoning the old licensing and regulations in 2015, I think some credit must be given to FIFA in admitting somewhat that the changes in 2015 were a misjudgement.

When we consider FIFA was a very different animal, with its own set of well publicised problems/issues that came to the fore around 2015, it has subsequently had to try and rebuild its image and reputation (which it seemingly continues to try to do, with mixed results). Just maybe a new regime and approach is part of the reasoning behind the decision to abandon the old football agents system in 2015 as a mistake, and as such I am personally prepared to see where FIFA’s new approach takes us and allow for them to at least try and make amends and address the continuing problems that surround the issue(s) of football agents.

However, whilst I welcome what appears to be a positive step I will highlight three key things that everyone must remember:

  1. It is now 4 years since FIFA took the decision to abandon the old agents licensing system (and the national associations largely followed suit), and whilst I wouldn’t necessarily say the problems with football agents have got worse (maybe more unprofessional), the problems have arguably evolved, become more engrained and more widespread.

    In effect this isn’t just a matter of ‘closing the stable door once the horse has bolted’, it is a matter of firstly ‘locating the horse, catching it after you haven’t just had it escape but chased it away (after deciding you don’t want the responsibility any more), and eventually then trying to get it back in the stable’. Therefore, the problem is not just 4 years lost in improving a situation the authorities accepted was out of control, but addressing the four years of evolving and new problems and effectively playing ‘catch up’.
  2. In addition to the matter of the 4 years catch-up required, everyone needs to remember it took FIFA what I understand to be anywhere between 5 to 8 years from the point of deciding agent regulations needed to be addressed before in the end ‘abandoning’ them.

    If it took this long to take what is viewed by many to be a retrograde step, just how long will it take for the necessary steps to finalise the regulations and introduce them, let alone the period of time required to actually improve things.
  3. And finally, over many years in the football industry I have been very critical of a lack of one thing when it comes to footballs stakeholders, authorities and participant groups and that is the total lack of empathy for one another.

    For a considerable amount of time, consultation on football agent matters has been very much internal for the football authorities, choosing to release numerous drafts to ‘test the water’ and only on occasion choosing to consult with the clubs and leagues as arguably the main power-brokers in modern football – whilst the agents have been very much been left out in the cold as outsiders.

    And whilst it has been widely publicised FIFA have sought official consultation with agents/intermediaries on new agent regulations and licensing, some have highlighted notable absences from the agents consulted (e.g. both big names and representatives the mainstream agents) along with some questionable names included (e.g. unregistered intermediaries).

FIFA’s Proposed Framework

In a follow up article(s) I will endeavour to look in more detail at the initial proposals from both FIFA and the FA in terms of new football agent regulations. And whilst my initial reaction to the sentiment of the proposals from FIFA being that they do seem sensible and a step in the right direction – although arguably at least 4 years late – addressing important issues in relation to football agent (intermediary) activity. However, my perception of what the FA have offered thus far is less than impressive and in a form that seems to have been quickly thrown together with little thought if only to ‘toe the line’ with FIFA and thus to ‘appear’ active.

However just to give a quick overview of the general principles of the initial framework for ‘Intermediaries and Agents’, the overall objective is:

“Raising professional and ethical standards for the occupation of intermediaries to protect players who have short careers and to protect contractual stability and solidarity”.

FIFA Football Stakeholders Committee for ‘Intermediaries and Agents’ (2019)

….…. something I think many (myself included) would find it difficult to disagree with.

This overall object brings together several underlying elements which in themselves largely fulfil very important objectives:

  • Raising professional standards through such measures as agent licensing, fiduciary duty, standard contracts, standard invoices and enforcement/sanctions.
  • Raising ethical standards through transparency, preventing conflicts of interests, limitation of mandates, ‘clearing house’, potential cap on agents’ fees.
  • Protecting contractual stability through aligning agent activity with that of the transfer system, protecting the solidarity mechanism, ‘capping‘ on agents’ fees to avoid a speculative market for non-sporting objectives.
  • Better regulation of agent compensation and representation.

This is not to say that everything in the initial proposals are plausible, realistic or that more importantly some of the proposals won’t meet with objections, resistance if not (legal) challenges from certain participant groups (including agents); but the basis of these should be welcomed for the benefit of all participant groups affected by agent activity.

However, on closer examination of the document, FIFA appears to have conveniently excluded one key issue from the main proposals for the regulatory ‘Framework’, that is included in that of the ‘General Principles’ for the framework – being the very incendiary and delicate proposal for a cap on agent’s fees. The cynic in me says this may have been intentional on the part of FIFA with these initial proposals, as was the case with the drafts of the regulations for 2015 where the topic of an agent’s fee cap constantly changed between drafts (i.e. in, out, mandatory, guideline) which just led to confusion.

However what needs to be realised is that this topic is not going to go away and although FIFA may attempt to conceal, skirt-around or soften even mentioning the topic to try and appease all, the fact is whenever changes to football agent regulations are mentioned, a large proportion of people are going to immediately look for and/or ask about an ‘agents cap’; so isn’t it better that an acceptable (not necessarily liked) solution is negotiated.

I have spoken on this issue multiple times before (e.g. Looking further into Football’s Agent Issues and Problems – Including the Delicate Matters of ‘Transparency’​ and ‘Capping Agents’​ Fees’), and whilst I can see both sides of the argument in terms of for and against a cap I don’t believe a cap will be an effective proposal, and will just lead to further conflict and legal changes that will hold up improvement to agent regulations.

The following article endeavours to look more at the finer details of FIFA’s proposed framework and some of the problems it may encounter along with further fine-tuning that may be needed.