Football’s most powerful agents are preparing to launch a legal challenge against FIFA’s controversial new regulations on their industry, the Mail on Sunday can reveal.
A group of the game’s leading agents are meeting in London on Wednesday to discuss the next steps in their fight against the rules, having held discussions about legal action for the past two weeks.
A European body representing agents has said the ‘whole industry’ is at risk of being ‘dismantled’ after FIFA introduced regulations limiting the amount of money agents can earn from a transfer.
FIFA has introduced regulations that limit the amount of money agents can earn from transfers
The agents say FIFA did not properly engage with them in drafting the new rules and they will remove ‘thousands’ of small to medium-sized player representatives.
FIFA said they had carried out an ‘extensive consultation process with all key international football stakeholders’. But leading agents including Jonathan Barnett, who represents Gareth Bale and Jack Grealish, have strongly disputed FIFA’s claim. So are representative agents.
‘The agents were not consulted in an official capacity, and FIFA’s decisions did not truly take into account the views of football stakeholders; instead, they were made unilaterally,’ said the European Football Agents Association (EFAA).
‘We have never met a group of agents worldwide who are not concerned about the potential of a very low fee limit, nor have we met an agent who is in favor of such a limit – a surprising position, given that our field is set in reverse without a hint of consultation.
English clubs account for almost a third of all spending on transfer agents in 2022
‘These regulations will have serious consequences for the health of football and the careers of thousands of small and medium-sized agents around the world. We will do everything we can to protect our profession and prevent enforcement.’
The FIFA Council approved its Football Agent Regulations in Qatar on December 16, with the ruling body describing them as ‘a landmark step towards establishing a fairer and more transparent football transfer system’ .
The regulations state that an agent representing a player who earns more than $200,000 (£165,000) annually can earn no more than three per cent of payments to him in any transaction. When representing the same buying club and footballer in the same pay bracket, agents can earn no more than six percent from any player payments. When representing a selling club, the agent’s cut is limited to 10 percent of the transfer fee.
Jonathan Barnett (R) is the representative for both ex-Real Madrid stars Gareth Bale and Jack Grealish
Most of the regulations, published on Friday, will take effect on Monday although the cap on agents’ fees will not take effect until October 1.
Other important aspects of the rules include the introduction of a FIFA license that all agents must hold to work in the industry. This will involve a written examination. This rule will also apply from October 1.
The regulations will prevent an agent from representing both clubs in any transfer deal and from working for both the selling club and the player.
FIFA provided this newspaper with a list of the 14 agent representative bodies it claimed had been invited to engage in the consultation process. It also named 24 of the most prominent agents allegedly approached.
Barnett was named the most powerful sports agent in the world by Forbes in 2019
However, Barnett, the Briton named by Forbes as the world’s most powerful sports agent in 2019, told this newspaper: ‘I understand that my name is on a list of FIFA claims that they have consulted. I have never participated in any kind of consultation with FIFA. I went to a meeting expecting consultation but instead they just told us what they were planning to do and I walked out. The idea of FIFA consultation is not what is defined in the English dictionary.’
Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, said he was ‘concerned by the huge amount of money flowing from the football industry’. The implication is that agents are standing outside the industry, with Infantino pointing out that agents’ fees in 2019 totaled around £550m, out of a global spend on transfers of £5.5bn.
But agents are understood to object to a cap on their earnings when none exists in other ‘talent’ industries, where an agent’s cut is usually between 10 and 20 percent and sometimes more . Agents also believe that FIFA acted beyond their legal remit in introducing such a limit.
Gianni Infantino claimed that agents’ fees in 2019 were around £550m, out of a global transfer spend of £5.5bn
The EFAA added: ‘We spoke to agents in South America, North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia — not one agent felt respected or considered by the same FIFA so-called “consultation process” in drafting new regulations, or the draft regulations themselves.
‘We want nothing more than a regulated profession with high quality standards. However, the proposed FFAR will not achieve these goals.
‘We cannot stand idly by while a body seeks to dismantle our entire profession. We have therefore started legal action against FFAR, with the aim of finally having the European Court block these EU-wide regulations.’