Next week, the first FIFA Football Agents exam under the new FFAR (FIFA Football Agents Regulations) will go ahead in various locations around the world, with over 6500 candidates purportedly registered to sit the exam.
Although FIFA have set the exam and have stipulated it as part of the new agent regulations (FFAR), it is the responsibility of FIFA’s Member Associations (National FAs) to arrange the exam and host it for any candidates wishing to sit the exam, in the associations respective territories.
However, with the responsibility of organising and holding the new FIFA agent’s exam thrust upon the National FA’s and the responsibility of applying and upholding a vast swathe of the new regulations (FFAR) in their own respective territories, do the National Football Associations TRULY welcome the new FIFA Football Agent Regulations (FFAR)?
As I have written about before (as far back as 2020 in one instance : Maybe I was wrong, and FIFA was right (well sort of)), despite being very much in opposition to the FIFA Regulations on Working With Intermediaries (RWWI) of 2015, that FIFA implemented to replace agent regulations and licensing; I have admitted on reflection that some of what FIFA may have been trying to achieve was possibly a sensible step, albeit largely poorly executed.
In deferring a lot of the agent/intermediary regulatory matters and responsibilities to the National FAs for domestic matters, whilst maintaining a simpler governance framework for international matters; FIFA arguably allowed for regional laws, customs and practices to be applied by the National FAs on football agent (intermediary) related matters.
However, what became quite apparent from the RWWI in 2015 was that whilst some National FAs grasped this challenge and responsibility proactively, many didn’t, and some even saw it as an excuse to take arguably retrograde steps in the regulation of agents.
So, will FIFA’s new regulations encourage National FAs to ‘step up’ and take responsibility for the effective regulation of licensed football agents under the new FFAR?
Sadly, I think this is quite unlikely (although I am happy to be proved wrong), either on a national or international level for National FA’s. Whether it be for a lack of resources, a lack of willing or some other excuse that may be given by some of the National FA’s.
A simple reason as to why I believe the numerous attempts of FIFA to regulate football agents/intermediaries and the activity of football agents has failed; is that the obligation on National FAs to adequately implement, uphold or enforce the regulations has neither been embraced, encouraged or enforced.
Whether it be the RWWI since 2015, the agent regulations between 2008 and 2015, or the licensing and regulations that existed even before then; it is fair to say that FIFA have failed to ensure the National FAs (as a whole) have effectively undertaken their obligations in the regulation of football agents.As such it remains to be seen whether national FAs will undertake these obligations more effectively with any new regulations (ie. FFAR), or whether FIFA will ensure that the National FAs undertake these obligations, and those who don’t are sanctioned by FIFA (which historically has been scarce if not nye on non-existent).
Another hurdle to be overcome by FIFA (and the football world) with the effective implementation of the new FFAR, is the fact that many National Associations will see a drop in revenues generated for licensing and regulating football agents. This is both in terms of registration fees and annual renewal fees, that may have been received since 2015 with the implementation of national registrations for Intermediaries under the RWWI.
If for example, we take one of the largest National FAs in terms of Intermediaries; The FA in England, the registration fees and annual renewals collected from Registered Intermediaries since 2015 will be quite substantial. Even with a very conservative estimate of 2500 registered intermediaries, over 8 years of registrations (at £250 exc vat, per year) this would have generated ‘The FA’ approximately £5 million in revenues that they were not receiving prior to 2015, and will seemingly not be receiving with the implementation of FFAR.
2500 is a VERY conservative estimate on the number of intermediaries registered in England with The FA at any one time since 2015.
In fact, I am confident this was a lot higher, if not double at times (with some estimating 6000-7000 Intermediaries at one point registered with The FA, which may have generated approximately £1.5m – £1.7m in JUST one year) and it is also worth noting, for each new Intermediary registration this generated another £250 for The FA..
This drop in revenues may be argued by some as an excuse for a National FA not being able (or willing) to implement the FFAR as they (or FIFA) would like, and thus to maintain arguably sub-standard regulatory practices for football agents.
The revenues generated by the different National FA’s will of course vary based on the registration fees, annual renewal fees as well as the number of intermediaries they have registered in their territory. As such, in many cases it is fair to say standards have also varied in terms of the support that the National FAs have afforded to ‘Registered Intermediaries’, as well as the level of efficiency to which they have enforced the FIFA RWWI since 2015.
So, with this in mind, this loss in revenue for some National FAs may lessen their motivation to adequately implement, uphold and enforce the FFAR as well as they should, due to the loss in revenues. Is this justifiable for some who have failed to improve standards since 2015, when they didn’t receive such additional revenues, or those who haven’t upheld standards adequately either before or after 2015?
In fact, the question could quite legitimately be asked as to whether some National FAs may look to make up for these lost revenues, and subsequently how it may be possible to recoup such losses and possibly any additional costs incurred under the new FFAR.
The first thing to consider in this is the cost, inconvenience and for some National FAs, the confusion of having to arrange, host, invigilate and operate the new FIFA football agents exam under the prescribed and controlled conditions specified under the new FFAR.
Whilst FIFA have specified that the National FAs may charge a fee for candidates to sit the exam, there appears to be considerable inconsistences in the charges to candidates. As such, could this be a sign that some National FAs are looking to not just cover their costs of hosting the exam, but arguably trying to recoup some of the revenues lost under FFAR (as mentioned previously)?
Article 6.2- The FIFA Football Agent Regulations (FFAR) 2022/23
The member association may charge the applicant an exam fee, exclusively to cover the reasonable costs of organising and holding the exam.
Whilst it is accepted that the costs of facilitating the exam, will vary between countries and territories given the differing resources, candidate numbers, local costs etc, from a small amount of research (and a limited data-pool), it appears that there are huge differences in the fees being quoted from different National FAs to candidates for sitting the FIFA Football Agents exam. Although some may expect a pattern based on geography, location or even the respective (Con)Federations, this does not appear to be the case. For example:
It is however worth noting, that FIFA with the FFAR exam have allowed candidates to sit the exam in any territory they so wish, unlike under the agent regulations prior to 2015, whereby applicants/candidates SHOULD have had a legitimate connection to the territory in which they sat the exam (e.g. nationality, domiciled, place of birth).
The conditions under which the FFAR Agents Exam should be undertaken, have been outlined by FIFA, and as such the difference in the exam fees shouldn’t be so dramatic as those outlined above. So, is this a sign that National FAs are going above and beyond in facilitating a professional exam environment, or as may seem to be for some, they are seemingly profiteering from the FIFA Football Agents exam?
Whilst there is a cost to FIFA and agents in the implementation of the FFAR, it is fair to say there will (or SHOULD) also be a significant cost to the National FAs. This cost is not just in terms of hosting the agent exams, but also the necessary adaptations required under the new FFAR.
Whilst some may argue that the National FAs need adequate resources to uphold the FFAR to the standards supposedly demanded by FIFA, the same national FAs approved the FFAR, as they did with the RWWI and agent regulations before that. And although (as mentioned earlier), since 2015 many National FAs have received additional revenues from Intermediary (agent) registrations, these revenues did not exist pre-2015, when regulations were arguably implemented better by National FAs, than has been the case since 2015.
So, the questions have to be asked:
Over the many years that I have been involved in the football agency world, my dealings with various National FAs has been very much a ‘mixed bag’. Some very good, whilst others have been next to useless (such contrasts, even within the same National FA). And over time, the regulation and licensing of agents and intermediaries does seem to be (or has become) at best more of a ‘box ticking’ exercise for some National FAs, if not even seemingly a chore for some that they would rather do without.
The National FAs will have to adapt just as much, if not more than the agents themselves; in implementing new policies, processes, procedures and systems with FFAR. And for those who seemingly took the opportunity in 2015 to ‘relax’ their agent regulations (or even arguably take retrograde steps) with the advent of ‘Intermediaries’ and RWWI, they SHOULD now be seeking to intensively improve standards back to pre-2015 levels, which may come at a substantial cost in terms of time, money and effort.
Yes, I agree some National FAs may be overstretched in terms of resources, staff and knowledge when it comes to agent regulations and licensing. Yet, for those that are struggling with this remit from FIFA, I am pretty sure FIFA would be only too happy to be perceived as a helpful and ‘generous’ governing body, lending a helping hand to a National FA that is struggling to cope.
Yet for National FAs who do have considerable resources at their disposal, the matter of ‘football agents’ and their regulation is seemingly some way down the priority list for some (and some of and their officials). And although the task of regulating agents may not be easy at times, it is reasonable to think that this almost ‘laissez faire’ attitude is not an acceptable approach to take on such an issue.
This concern is not so much that the agents themselves are a priority for support, especially when compared to arguably more important matters such as safeguarding. Yet, what people do forget is the knock-on effect from not effectively regulating football agents, and the affect which that subsequently has for other football stakeholders and participant groups, that are affected both directly (e.g. players, clubs) and indirectly by agent activity.
So, when all is considered in regards to the National FAs and the implementation of the new FFAR from FIFA; the costs, the lost revenues, applying new regulations and the loss of possibly an ‘easier life’ ………. do the National Football Associations TRULY welcome the new FIFA Football Agent Regulations?