To try and avoid another bout of ‘FIFA bashing’, as there seems to be many parties more than willing to do that, the basis of this statement focuses on the new agent/intermediary regulations and whether it would have been better for FIFA to totally deregulate and leave it to the confederations and/or national associations to regulate agent activity.

FIFA have been looking at the matter of better regulation for players agents for an extended period (some would say too long a period of time) after admitting to an extent that the current regulations (prior to 2015: and implemented in 2001) did not work and in their wisdom rather than address the problem and revise the regulations they chose to ‘abandon’ them ….. FIFAs own choice to select the word abandon as they vehemently deny that this is deregulation of player’s agents.

Now it is easy to get emotional over the use of the word abandon but permit me to do so if ever so briefly.  In abandoning agents regulations have FIFA just abandoned the rules or have they effectively abandoned everyone affected by the rules? Not just the agents but also the players and clubs the rules were there to help and ultimately protect … but FIFA have also to an extent abandoned the national associations, confederations and football as a whole on the basis that something that FIFA introduced they couldn’t control or develop into a working model, so in essence they have decided ‘let’s throw the baby out with the bath water’.

So emotions to one side, lets actually look at what has happened :

  • FIFA have “abandoned” the regulations and decided on a new framework of ‘intermediaries’ to replace ‘agents’.
  • The new regulations are a ‘basic’ framework set out by FIFA which many would argue are massively inferior to the previous regulations.
  • FIFA have permitted the national associations to go beyond the basic framework of the ‘intermediary regulations’ as they see fit to do so in their own territories
  • However, FIFA have told the National Associations they must impose the basic framework in their own territories as a minimum requirement


Abandoning the Agents Regulations for Intermediaries

The question should surely be asked why the old regulations were failing and identify the ill functioning elements and either discard them or replace them with something that works.  And I am sure that everyone recognises that rules and regulations don’t work indefinitely and they need to evolve and be fine-tuned over time much the same way as laws change and evolve.

The analogy could be drawn to that of a car that fails to start.  If it needs new spark plugs you replace the spark plugs but you don’t throw the engine away or sell the car. Likewise and in a more extreme case if the government highlights a ‘loophole’ in the legal system they adapt the laws and rules to close that loophole and not just abandon the old laws.

So in effect renaming ‘agents’ as ‘intermediaries’ and minimising the regulations governing what was ‘agency activity’ will the solve the problems ….. I think we are safe to say NO it won’t.


Implementing a Basic Framework of Regulations

I won’t go to the extreme of calling it ‘cowardly’ (but some might) to minimise what exists to try and remove problem, but the question has to be asked do you solve a problem by effectively ‘turning a blind eye’ to something you cannot solve, NO you try to solve it.

It may be an extreme example (and a far more important problem) but if a government wanted to wipe out the crime of dealing crack cocaine then why not legalise dealing it, as then it is not a crime ….. however the problem does not go away and neither do the after effects.

By implementing a basic framework, this has not only not resolved any of the resulting problems but probably complicated the implementation of any sort of regulations that may help address the problems that exists.

I would even go as far to say the implementation of such a basic framework is little more than an attempt by FIFA to exercise some form of ‘maximum control with minimum responsibility’ in enforcement of any regulations.


National Football Association’s – Going Beyond the Framework

Now on the ‘face of it’ by permitting the national associations to implement their own supplemental regulations on the back of FIFA’s basic framework this may be perceived to be a good idea. It should encourage an element of conformity and guidance but allowing a national association to develop the regulations further in their own territory.

However since the new regulations were ratified at FIFA Congress in 2014 the cracks have started to show in this methodology and since then it has quickly become clear that it is very much a case of ‘maximum control, but minimum responsibility’ for FIFA who have effectively passed a ‘regulatory hot potato’ to the national associations and told them to effectively ‘deal with it, or else’.

There is little doubt in my mind that the major National Football Associations (like The FA in England, and the DFB in Germany) are perfectly competent in developing and implementing their own ‘agent regulations’, but with the overarching shadow of a FIFA framework that ‘has to be adhered to’ this has caused more problems for the National Associations than it has solved. And in effect has left them and the leagues ‘jumping though hoops’ to get regulations and procedures outlined, approved and implemented in a comparatively short period of time (i.e. 10 months, when compared to FIFA taking 5 years to launch new regulations).

What FIFA has failed to recognise is that whilst they implement their rules and regulations worldwide with various caveats so as not to contravene various laws around the world, the national associations are left to try and fit within FIFAs framework, whilst observing the laws in their territories and appeasing their own national football stakeholders (e.g. players, clubs, leagues, agents). In fact, the cynic in me may argue that this may have been a conscious effort by some at FIFA to encourage national Associations NOT to go beyond the basic framework so as to avoid the headaches of confrontation, complications, time, effort and expense.

It is also worth considering the fact that if one national association adopts their own regulations and another association has a variation on these who has jurisdiction in a cross border dispute and whose regulations apply …… again a case where a national association may be encouraged to have no regulations.

National Associations Must Adopt the Basic FIFA Framework

As I think I have highlighted FIFA still have this basic framework that all National Associations must adopt, as a basic standard which they can go beyond if they wish or just stay with it as is.

However when you read further into the new FIFA regulations it further enforces the fact as to who has the ultimate control as to this basic framework, and who has the responsibility to ensure they are upheld by football participants.

Extract from FIFAs ‘Regulations on Working with Intermediaries’ Document
Associations are responsible for the imposition of sanctions on any party under their jurisdiction that violates the provisions of these Regulations, their statutes or regulations.

Now this clearly states that the National Associations have the role and responsibility for enforcing and implementing any sanctions in their territory for any breaches, however:

Extract from FIFAs ‘Regulations on Working with Intermediaries’ Document
FIFA shall monitor the proper implementation of these minimum standards/requirements by the associations and may take appropriate measures if the relevant principles are not complied with.

Seems to highlight that should a national association not adequately implement the minimum standards (regulations) then FIFA will take action, arguably against the national association?

Would this be a case of maximum control and minimum responsibility?


In Conclusion, Would Football be Better without FIFA

I have never been opposed to the old regulations or in that sense opposed to new and tighter regulations, however as you have probably gathered the ‘abandoning’ of the old system and taking a ‘retrograde step’ to new and inferior regulations that do not address the problems is something I am strongly opposed to.

But in terms of whether football would be better without FIFA, in this area I think we would. There is little doubt the new ‘Regulations of Working with Intermediaries’ is ill conceived and merely an attempt to ‘wash their hands of the problem’ (that FIFA have played a part in creating) and shifting the responsibility on to someone else.

I would go as far to say that if FIFA weren’t going to develop the old regulations to solve the problem they would have been better leaving it to the National Associations (and/or confederations and football stakeholders) to develop the rules governing agency activity rather than FIFA ever release the ‘wishy-washy’ ‘Regulations on Working with Intermediaries’ document that is effectively a ‘pair of regulatory handcuffs’ that have caused more problems than actually addressing the problems.