The Football Association has been forced into postponing the implementation of a cap on agents’ fees in an 11th hour move described as “embarrassing” and “a shambles”.
Just four days before the new rules capping fees at three per cent in standard domestic transfers were due to take effect, the FA announced that they would be delayed pending a tribunal’s verdict on a legal challenge brought by four leading agencies.
CAA Base, Wasserman, Stellar and ARETE, whose clients include England stars James Maddison, John Stones, Jack Grealish, began arbitration proceedings in June, arguing that the rules were anti-competitive. The FA said a decision was now expected by the end of November.
“Today’s announcement to delay the introduction of the new National Football Agent Regulations comes as a genuine surprise – especially given that even earlier this morning the FA’s website had indicated that the arbitral tribunal appointed would deliver its verdict by 30 September,” said Simon Leaf, Partner and Head of Sport at law firm Mishcon de Reya.
“In short, it’s a bit of a shambles and further embarrassment to both the FA and Fifa that its landmark regulations, first announced almost a year ago, will not now be implemented in arguably the most important market for agents, as well as in Germany, in accordance with the advertised timelines.”
The FA’s new rules are similar to those of world governing body Fifa, which cover international transfers and received backing in July from the Court of Arbitration for Sport. They were prompted by outcry at the large commissions received by agents on some deals, such as the reported £41m pocketed by the late Mino Raiola for Paul Pogba’s move to Manchester United.
If approved, the rules will cap agents’ commission at three per cent where they are representing only the player and six per cent when acting for both player and club. The cap only applies to transfers in which the player will earn more than $200,000 (£165,000) a year and is only levied on the excess salary.
The FA said a decision would come by 30 November at the latest, raising the prospect of the new regulations coming into effect for the January transfer window.
“We don’t expect agents to be getting out the champagne just yet, as this is potentially just a temporary reprieve,” Leaf added. “For now, we expect to see a further rush of last minute contract renewal deals for players, as agents continue to seek to negotiate contracts before any potential cap on fees is introduced.”
The FA said current regulations would remain in force until a verdict from the tribunal, a state of affairs labelled not sufficient by Stephen Taylor Heath, co-head of sports law at JMW Solicitors.
“The FA had already instigated a tight timetable for implementation including canvassing external opinion on how they were implementing Fifa’s regulations within their jurisdiction which has now been broadsided by this latest development,” he said.
“With all due respect to the FA, they need to elaborate on this statement and provide a greater degree of clarification as to where agents and indeed players stand domestically and internationally.
“There needs to be clarity to the extent to which the regulations are being challenged and provide greater detail as to the particular provisions that are at issue whilst respecting any confidentiality obligations.”