What are agents used for?
Boosted by the liberalization of the transfer market since 1995, these intermediaries are involved in 20% of international player transactions, and have shared nearly 500 million dollars (407 million euros) in commissions this year, according to FIFA. Until the health crisis, this cake had continued to swell, with a doubling between 2015 and 2019 of the commissions identified by FIFA, while the solidarity payments and compensation to training clubs linked to transfers stagnated.
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Agents can be hired by the player – a classic pattern in other sports or for artists’ agents – but also by the selling club, the buying club or all three at the same time, a mixture of genres illustrated by the Italian-Dutch agent Mino Raiola in the transfer of Paul Pogba from Juventus to Manchester United in 2016, triple commission of 49 million euros at stake.
Since FIFA abolished the agent’s license in 2015, only certain federations still control their skills and activity. In France, agents must take an exam and their accounts can be submitted since 2017 to the DNCG, the financial policeman of football. This lack of regulation has created “a ‘Wild West’ situation at the bottom of the scale“, with fierce competition between intermediaries,”and a high level of concentration in the most lucrative segments“, controlled by a handful of star agents, described in 2018 the International Center for the Study of Sport (CIES) in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
Mino Raiola – Paul Pogba
Credit: Getty Images
What do we blame them for?
At the root of the criticism is their remuneration, mainly indexed on the amount of transfers rather than on the salaries of the players, encouraging them to push for a change of club. “Agents exert undue and often negative pressure on players, especially minors. Lack of skill, greed and bad advice jeopardize the careers of many talents“, deplores the CIES. In addition, their commissions are not capped and can be supported by the clubs, allowing European leaders to lock access to football nuggets by paying their agents handsomely.
Finally, both the CIES and FIFA have noted a cascade of criminal offenses made possible by the opacity of financial flows linked to transfers: corruption of sports leaders via retrocommissions, money laundering and massive tax evasion, highlighted by the revelations of “Football Leaks” and the investigations opened around the Portuguese Jorge Mendes, the agent of Cristiano Ronaldo.
What is FIFA preparing?
The football body hopes to complete by summer 2021 a project started in 2018 and recreate an agent’s license, with initial examination, by barring access to any candidate already convicted of corruption, tax fraud, money laundering or abuse. sexual. FIFA also intends to ban “triple representation” player-club seller-club buyer, and have transactions go through a “clearing house”. Above all, it wants to cap commissions at 6% of the total amount of the salary contracted by the player, or at 10% of the transfer fee.
This last point promises a battle in European justice with the Football Agents Forum (FAF), chaired by Mino Raiola, on the basis of free competition. “How is it possible to put a limit on talent? It would be like putting a limit on the prices of paintings by Leonardo da Vinci or Rembrandt“, lamented on December 8 the powerful agent in the Italian newspaper Tuttosport.
Portuguese football agent Jorge Mendes poses
Is it sufficient ?
For Swiss lawyer Philippe Renz, who has been scrapping since 2017 against FIFA, “reform is a cloud of smoke“if it does not eliminate the” double representation “club-player, as the Belgian federation did for example in the summer of 2020.
FIFA, which is still in the consultation phase, has also not followed the recommendations of the CIES, which wanted to systematically index agent commissions on salaries and not on transfer allowances, in order to better fight “against hyperspeculation on player mobility, contractual instability“and certain arrangements such as” third-party property “of players.
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