Fifa have claimed a significant victory in their attempt to regulate the world’s top football agents, as the European Commission has backed the governing body’s move to bring in strict new rules including a cap on fees.
Although it will be a hearing at the European Court of Justice that ultimately settles the issue, the Commission’s written submission to judges carry significant weight. It is seen by sources involved as a “huge development” and being hailed as a win for Fifa in what had been developing into a highly fractious conflict.
Agents argue that the global body is attempting to unfairly affect their earning potential through a labour negotiation issue that actually has nothing to do with football, and goes against European Union antitrust laws. One strident position has been that setting a price cap would essentially represent a price-fixing cartel by the clubs, which top agents had been putting a lot of focus on.
The European Commission have instead argued that a cap is entirely justified in order to protect players and contractual stability, as well as limiting conflicts of interest while protecting players who lack experience or information about the transfer system. An additional note was that agents’ fees are actually excessive and out of kilter with any normal fees for a service.
The Commission’s observations also pointed to the “degree of discretion” which EU law generally affords sporting associations in order to fairly govern. Of the cap, it was stated “the defendant has plausibly pointed out that very high agency commissions, which are completely decoupled from the cost of the consideration, create a strong incentive to exert massive influence on players in particular in order to force an early transfer.”
A further issue the new rules are set to tackle is on representing various parties on the same deal. The Commission has also backed restriction of this, arguing it “appears suitable” to mitigate against potential conflict of interest.
A date for the hearing at the court in Luxembourg has not yet been set.