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FIFA's long-running dispute with football agents over its new FIFA Football Agent Regulations - is there time for a surprise comeback?

Posted on 27 July 2023

In January 2023, the new FIFA Football Agent Regulations (the FFAR) came into force as part of a major overhaul by FIFA of how football agents are regulated. Amongst other changes, this included  the re-introduction of a licensing system and the agent's exam, a restriction on multiple representation along with a cap on the level of commission agents can earn (we summarised and explored these changes in greater detail).

However, since then the FFAR have been subject to various legal challenges across Europe. For example, a German regional court recently granted an interim injunction against FIFA and the German Football Association preventing the implementation of the FFAR in Germany until the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled on whether or not the FFAR is in compliance with EU law. Additionally, a group of the largest agencies have brought arbitration proceedings challenging the implementation of the FA's national version of the FFAR (which only relate to domestic transfers whereas the FFAR only relate to international transfers).

CAS rules in favour of FIFA and the FFAR

In another challenge to the FFAR, brought by the Professional Football Agents Association (PFAA), the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has ruled in favour of FIFA to confirm the legality, validity and proportionality of the FFAR. As a result, CAS has dismissed the PFAA's claims in their entirety.

What does the CAS ruling mean for the football industry?

With FIFA claiming a resounding victory, this decision represents a potentially critical point in the dispute over the implementation of the FFAR.

Football agents, clubs and others within the football industry should be aware that the current state of play of the FFAR following this ruling is:

  • The FFAR will come into full force and effect on 1 October 2023 meaning football agents, clubs and other stakeholders will need to comply with the FFAR from this date, and ensure they are prepared for the new regulations beforehand (see here for further details on the key changes and what agents should do to ready themselves for the new regulatory landscape).
  • Only licensed football agents who have passed the agent's exam will be permitted to act from 1 October 2023 – with the next exam scheduled for 20 September 2023 (and only 52% out of 3,800 passing the first agent exam taken earlier this year). Agents have until 31 July to register to sit the next exam. This is clearly a critical area of concern for football agents as the next opportunity to take the exam after September is not until May 2024 and then November 2024.

What next?

Whilst the CAS ruling is clearly to FIFA's advantage, this is not the last we have heard on this dispute. As previously mentioned, there are various other legal challenges against the FFAR which may yet shape how, when and in what form the FFAR are implemented.

In particular, it remains to be seen whether the ECJ will choose to follow CAS's approach and analysis (which largely focusses on EU laws, particularly the principles of EU competition law) or decide differently, whether partially or entirely, in favour of the football agents, and its rationale for doing so. Additionally, given the need for an expedited decision in the FA's arbitration proceedings relating to the domestic implementation of the FFAR in England, the arbitral tribunal is expected to give its decision by 30 September 2023.

If you require any advice on the FIFA Agent Regulations (including assistance preparing for and passing the exam, as well as how the changes will impact your club or business), please contact Simon Leaf, Tom Murray or Oliver Millichap.

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