The FA has released its new "Regulations on Working with Intermediaries", which are to come into effect on 1 April 2015. Far from a de-regulation of agency activity, the new Regulations reflect the spirit of the existing FA Agents Regulations. However, with less than a month before the introduction of the Regulations, vital questions still remain unanswered.
In summary, anyone who wishes to act as an Intermediary (including companies as well as individuals) must register (and renew this registration yearly) on The FA website, pay an annual fee (which is reported as a €500 annual fee in Germany, but as yet unknown in England), pass a character test (which will be published shortly by The FA) and lodge any representation contracts with The FA. The representation contracts will be based on standard form contracts (simplified versions of the current standard representation contacts, yet to be published) and will have a maximum two year term. However, representation contracts pre-dating 1 April 2015, must be re-submitted to The FA once the Intermediary is registered, so that he can conduct “Intermediary Activity” (provided that the representation contracts allow for the contracts to survive the introduction of the new Intermediaries Regulations).
The Regulations recommend that players, clubs and Intermediaries may adopt a commission rate of 3 per cent of the player’s basic gross income for the entire duration of the relevant employment contract, or 3 per cent of the transfer fee paid if the Intermediary is appointed to act for a club on a player transfer. No doubt The FA will monitor with interest the European Commission’s determination of the enforceability of an equivalent provision under the FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries! We also note that the Association of Football Agents is considering legal action on the same issue, arguing that, although worded as a recommendation, this will be a barrier to competition. We understand that in Europe, only the English, Austrian and Belgian federations are due to implement the 3 per cent commission cap as a "recommendation".
Another concern raised by agents is that, as Intermediaries, they will not permitted to be paid by a player or club if the player concerned is under the age of 18, even though a player may well have entered into a professional contract by this stage. Also, Intermediaries will need to obtain a specific authorisation from The FA to act for Minors (which will last for three years as long as the Intermediary is registered). This authorisation is subject to obtaining a Disclosure and Barring Service check (the old CRB check, or equivalent disclosure for applicants domiciled overseas) which will be reviewed by The FA. We query whether the administrative burden and bar to payment will deter some Intermediaries from acting in these circumstances?
It is noted that dual representation will still be permissible under the new Regulations and The FA will still operate as a clearing house for commission payments.
Significantly, The FA can charge an Intermediary who breaches the Regulations with misconduct and disputes involving Intermediaries can, if provided for, be dealt with between the parties under FA Rule K, as is currently the case. We query what will happen with disputes involving Intermediaries and players where the parties are not registered with the same federation (e.g. what happens in the event that an Intermediary, registered with a overseas federation is ‘cut out’ of a transfer of a player, with whom he has a representation contract, to an English club).
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