The European Football Agents Associations (EFAA) and experts discuss the future of football agents at Loughborough University London

Agents, representatives of football stakeholders, and experts on the regulation of the football industry met last week to discuss FIFA’s current undertaking of reforming agent regulations and the implications the proposed new rules will have on future transfer deals.

The event was co-hosted by Loughborough University and the European Football Agents Associations (EFAA) on July 23, at Loughborough University London, located within Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

EFAA held a general assembly in the morning, bringing together the representatives of its members, which are national agents associations. Following the lunch break, a panel discussion took place.

Chaired by Professor Richard Parrish of Edge Hill University who leads a Erasmus+ Project on football agents, the panel of speakers included EFAA Vice President and football agent Giovanni Branchini, who has represented some of the game’s best players, Daan de Jong, Head of Sport Legal at the European Club Association (ECA) and FIFA Task Force Member, and Dr Serhat Yilmaz, of Loughborough University, an expert on the regulation of agents in football and the programme director of Loughborough’s professional certificate programme for sports agents.

Additionally, Rob Jansen, the President of EFAA, and Roberto Branco Martins, EFAA’s General Counsel, presented the position of EFAA concerning new regulations discussed by the FIFA Task Force.

Rob Jansen especially underlined the lack of stakeholder representation of agents within football’s governance system.

He said: "Even though the EFAA has a position now of being heard by FIFA, and there is more respect for each other and more of a listening ear to what the job is all about, EFAA is still not a partner—a stakeholder—to FIFA.

“And the strange thing is when you judge about a profession which has such a huge influence in the international world of football and you’re not one of the family.

“One of our big achievements was that for the last 12 months, FIFA took us in with world agents to discuss with them the new set of regulations.

“However, this was not an official discussion as we were never included as official partners in the drafting of the new regulations."

Given this reality, the EFAA took it upon themselves to draft a set of regulations for football agents which they believe not only reflect the market realities but will foster increased transparency, enforcement, and an overall healthy football transfer market.

EFAA Vice President Giovanni Branchini noted agents' readiness to contribute to FIFA's solidarity contribution mechanism as a means of showing their willingness to actively play a role in the development of football, so long as their role as a stakeholder, along with the representatives for clubs and players, is equally accepted.

Concerning the draft set of regulation produced by EFAA, Roberto Branco Martins said: “We agree on the proposed new licensing system including a clearinghouse, permanent education for agents, and the participation of agents as a party in the TMS (transfer matching system).

However, it is also important that nobody is exempted from the licensing requirement and collaboration mandates are also regulated.”

With regards to the proposed commission cap and the prohibition of dual representation, Branco Martins added: “a total disclosure of fees to support transparency is a better tool for control on fees instead of a cap on commission.

“The latter is a no-go and will only lead to under-the-table payments, as it is not industry practise to impede the free market operation. The party that uses the agent should pay, while clubs should be allowed to pay on behalf of their players in consideration of relevant national tax regulations.”

Commenting on the ongoing reform process of agent regulations, Dr Serhat Yilmaz said: “The re-introduction of licensing and the ongoing education requirement are positive developments to bring some order to the agent market.”

However, the discussions around the cap on commissions are rather unnecessary as the available data indicates the existence of a gradual capping model in the market under which the level of commissions tends to vary according to the financial magnitude of transfers.

The player pays rule, i.e. the ban on dual representation, may not produce the expected outcome of reduction of agents earning in football.

Last October, Loughborough launched a unique professional certificate in partnership with the Association of Football Agents (AFA) in order to educate prospective and existing agents in the world of sport.

The course teaches participants about the legal and practical workings of what it takes to succeed in the business.

It is believed to be the first partnership of its kind between a higher education institution and professional trade organisation.

View the press release on the Loughborough University website for further information and resources.