Thursday, June 14, 2007

Law Society ‘Instructs Solicitors’ Over FA Agent Regulations

The Law Society has instructed its solicitors to dispute the Football Association’s (FA) new Football Agents Regulations, it emerged at ‘Agents: What are they for?’, a breakfast seminar that illustrated growing disagreement between agents and the FA about whether the new Regulations are workable. The seminar was hosted this morning by Citi Private Bank on behalf of law firm Clintons’ Sports Law Group in London.

The new Regulations require lawyers, who were previously exempt from FA agent regulations because of their regulation by the Law Society, to register with the FA (as reported in World Sports Law Report, Volume 4, Issue 12, December 2006). This requirement has been disputed by lawyers who act as football agents, who argue that there is no need for them to register with the FA, as the set of ethics that the Law Society requires them to operate under are far more stringent than the FA’s Regulations. It was pointed out that FIFA still exempts lawyers from its Player Agents Regulations.

Not only is there disagreement between agents and the FA over whether the Regulations are workable, there is also dispute over whether agents were consulted at all during the drafting process. David Sheepshanks, Chairman of Ipswich Town and a non-executive Director of the Football Association, said that agents had been “well consulted”, while Mel Stein, a Consultant with Clintons and Chairman of the Association of Football Agents, a grouping of 90 leading football agents formed in response to the new Regulations, countered that agents had “not been consulted at all”. Jon Smith, Chief Executive Officer of First Artist Corporation, an athlete representation company, was careful not to get drawn into the ‘yes we did’, ‘no you didn’t’ pantomime argument.

“The role and image of agents has been tarnished and distorted by the actions of some of their number”, said Sheepshanks. “The FIFA Regulations are lax and have not been applied properly. Too many irresponsible agents have wrecked it for the responsible ones. The new FA Regulations are therefore vital”.

“Agents want to drive the ‘rotten apples’ out of the game”, said Stein, who said that the AFA had sought self-regulation negotiations with the FA Premier League. Stein singled out aspects of the “incomprehensible” Regulations for particularly stinging criticism. He dismissed as “unacceptable” provisions that would allow players to represent themselves in representation contracts, as well as provisions for players to pay agents in instalments rather than a lump sum, because of the danger that a player will simply terminate an agent’s employment and cease to pay them, after a transfer has taken place.

He also dismissed as “cloud cuckoo land” the provision that agents should not be able to act for players under the age of 16, arguing that alternative deals, such as buying a house for the player’s parents, will be done in secret. He used the examples of David Beckham and Wayne Rooney as two players whose talents had been realised long before they reached the age of 16.

Sheepshanks said that the FA would formally announce the new Regulations on 29 June, leaving little time for further consultation, however said that the FA would hold “familiarisation and counselling programmes” with all concerned parties.

However, consultation and co-ordination with FIFA also appears to be needed. A FIFA spokesperson told World Sports Law Report that new player agent regulations, to be introduced 1 January 2008, would “clarify the percentage of a fee that a player can pay to an agent, as well as the period of validity of agent licenses”. This, on the face of it, appears to suggest that FIFA regulations could scupper the FA’s plans to force players to pay their agents in instalments, rather than through a lump sum.

Andy Brown 


sideline said...

could a solicitor charge for the agency work as a profit costs fee and then add a lump sum agency fee as a disbursement in his firm's bill to the player / club?


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