Have FIFA and Football Agents Backed Themselves into a Corner?- Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Have FIFA and Football Agents Backed Themselves into a Corner?

A dispute where there are likely to be no winners but many losers.
24th February 2023

I am sure that I and many others, are growing somewhat weary of the continual bickering, consternation, criticism, mud-slinging and sometimes threats (since 2018) in the dispute between FIFA and various football agents and their representative groups.


Although the relationship between football agents and the football authorities (including FIFA) has always been far short of congenial and friendly, there has been a begrudging level of tolerance (to a degree) over the years. Sure, some posturing and shadow boxing, but with neither side actually throwing a punch with the intention of landing (apart from a few individual cases), the two parties are keeping their distance and guard(s) up.


However, since 2018 it is fair to say that FIFA swung what some may consider the first realistic punch at agents (as a collective), and somewhat understandably this prompted a response from some in the agent community if not to block, counter-punch, and at least put them on guard. Although metaphorically it didn’t land, it certainly changed the tone of the situation – with FIFA unveiling to agents the basis of new FIFA Agent Regulations rather than what should have ideally been a governance ‘framework’.

Bold Aims & Objectives that FIFA Must Be Seen to Act On

Since the debacle that many have labelled as the ‘Fall of FIFA’ (the old regime) in/around 2015, FIFA have understandably had to take steps in repairing its image and re-establish itself as a sport governing body.

Whilst some, including myself, may argue that it was more important to stabilise a seriously damaged brand (and organisation) first, if only to ensure similar mistakes don’t happen again in the future. The new FIFA regime seemed intent to ‘hit the ground running’ and have made some very bold statements and steps towards what is believed to be improving the sport and its governance, with tags such as ‘FIFA 2.0’ and ‘FIFA 3.0’.


Just one of the facets of this new approach, entailed reimplementing the licensing of football agents and new FIFA football agent regulations – the FIFA reasoning, being something which I have covered extensively in other articles.

The ‘Hangover’ of 2015

One of the first things the new FIFA regime seemed to have missed in proposing new agent regulations is that it was the agents themselves who objected to the ‘abandonment’ of the old player agent regulations (and license) by FIFA in 2015. Furthermore, it was these same agents who warned FIFA that replacing the old system with the new RWWI (Regulations on Working With Intermediaries) would further damage football and in essence lead to a situation of almost a deregulated industry ………… and on the whole the agents were proved correct**.

** NOTE as far as I am aware, the new FIFA regime has never actually acknowledged the agents were correct and should have been listened to (pre-2015); but merely that the old FIFA regime’s decision to ‘abandon’ the players agent license and regulations in favour of RWWI and the concept of ‘Intermediaries’ was wrong and that it had damaged the football industry quite badly.

Can this oversight be excused? Maybe it can, as very few (if any) of the new FIFA regime involved in the implementation or development of the new agent regulations (FFAR) were at FIFA in 2015 to witness the disastrous RWWI and to hear the concerns of agents, and it is unclear how many had been involved directly in agent regulatory matters prior to 2015.


So, it is only right and proper that those currently at FIFA cannot be expected to shoulder any responsibility or take blame for the mistakes of 2015. However, this should have been a prompt for them to do all that they could to engage with the agents who had aired concerns previously, and were largely ignored, if only to avoid similar mistakes to the past, from the old FIFA regime.

The Concerns of Most Agents Are Clear

Whilst there are differences of opinion between agents (and their representative groups) in what they object to (and approve of) in the new FIFA Football Agent Regulations (FFAR), I think it fair to say that the main concerns and objections are pretty similar between the informed majority (e.g. capping, publication).


Whilst the more ‘hard-line’, ‘hawkish’ and dare I say anti-FIFA brigade are seemingly making the most noise over the FFAR; I firmly believe in the case of the ‘quieter majority’, wanting effective regulations sooner rather than later, and harbouring a more refine set of objections with the new regulations.

Can (or will) The Football Agents ‘Back-Down’?

Having sat around the table (both officially and unofficially) with many of the key protagonists who are (or have already) lodging legal challenges against the new FFAR, I am almost certain they have no intention, will not, and ultimately cannot ‘back down’ in their challenge to FIFAs new agent regulations. This could be down to ego and the feeling they were disrespected in 2018, or that they have already appointed lawyers, or they personally despise of FIFA, their sheer bloody-mindedness or some ulterior motive such as an unregulated industry.


However, this is not a matter of ego or saving face for most of those objecting to the new FFAR, it is out of necessity for themselves, even their families and employees, or those they represent, as well as many other in the football community who are affected by agent regulations.

The Clock is Ticking and Time is Short

Most worryingly for me, is that I believe as soon as FIFA announced the new FFAR in January 2023 (if not the point at which they were approved in December 2022), FIFA ‘lit the fuse’ and the ‘clock is ticking’ towards either implementation or implosion.

The first thing to consider is the exams for those intermediaries who need to pass the exam to gain a FIFA Football Agents license before the implementation of the new regulations fully on October 1st– this means the soft-deadline for FIFA to change course is the 18th April 2023 (the day before the first sitting of the new FFAR exam).


If the FFAR are held up or rejected in any number of courts or at tribunals such as CAS, and these exam candidates have already passed the exam where does that leave them in the process? Will FIFA have to refund any of these candidates or legacy agents who have already paid the license fee to FIFA in order to become a ‘FIFA Football Agent’?

The uncertainty, upheaval and impact on the football industry prior to the implementation of the new regulations in full in October is not yet clear. Yet I am almost certain agents and agencies all around the world have been cajoling and implementing various contingency plans since the partial implementation of the new regulations in January, to make the most of whichever regulations are applicable in October.

Many may not have even considered the impact and uncertainty on national associations (member associations of FIFA) who have to implement these regulations on a national basis, facilitate the agent exams, implement their own national agent regulation variations and also consider how they license ‘registered intermediaries’ in the intervening period.


The fact is no one even knows how this dispute will end up or which set of regulations will be in force come the 1st October 2023. Will it be the RWWI, FFAR, a hybrid or will there be effectively no regulations whatsoever?  Even more disastrous and confusing for all involved (including FIFA), will be a case whereby the FFAR apply in some territories and RWWI still apply in others (i.e., due to FFAR being injuncted or found unlawful in one regional court/tribunal, but not another).

How Can FIFA Change Direction Without ‘Losing Face’?

A lot of people have said to me that this situation can’t be rectified or reversed at this stage, ‘the fuse is lit’, the ‘clock is ticking’ and come what may ‘we will let the courts decide’ (the latter statement being something I have heard from both the FIFA and agent side of the dispute, and easier to say when it’s not your money funding the case).


However, I do not believe that to be the case, and the matter can be resolved between the majority of those affected and in dispute over the FFAR. This may come as a surprise to some that I say this given that I have a reputation for being somewhat more of a ‘glass half empty’ and ‘pessimistic’ character (although I prefer ‘pragmatic-realist’).

So how can FIFA ‘Change Direction’ and Not Be Seen to Back Down and ‘Lose Face’?

The regulations are ‘rolled-back’ to the 2008 (pre-2015/pre-RWWI) player agent regulations, with the caveat that these will now be ‘FIFA Football Agent Regulation (08b)’ and be a ‘backstop’ measure from which the parties develop into new agent regulations. This will also allow national/member association to ‘roll-back’ to the old regulations they were used before, in time for the new 1st October 2023 deadline already set.


Some may well deem this as a ‘messy’ approach; but I would challenge such views as to what are the alternatives they would propose; and that the path we are on now will undoubtedly lead to far more disjointed, complex and messy a situation (e.g. retain RWWI, inconsistent adoption of FFAR in different territories, no official regulations at all due to legal challenges).

The new agent exams go ahead as planned (not least as many non-legacy agents have already registered and are studying for the first exams in April and September 2023) but based on the 2008 agent regulations etc, thus accommodating new agents and ‘legacy’ agents (i.e., pre-2015) under the new ‘FIFA Football Agent’ title come 1st October 2023 as planned.

The more urgent and largely undisputed elements of the FFAR (e.g., Agents Chamber for disputes, CPD) are integrated into the old 2008 framework/regulations as part of the new ’hybrid’ regulatory system. With the more contentious and highly disputed elements (e.g., cap, publication) temporarily side-lined for further consultation between FIFA and a representative stakeholder group(s) representing agents.

A new representative stakeholder body is established to represent licensed FIFA Agents (akin to FIFpro, ECA, WLF) which shall be independent of FIFA (but recognised by FIFA as a stakeholder group). Any EOI from other similar agent representative groups shall be considered by an independent body and recognised by FIFA where reasonable.

An Agent Working Group (AWG-2) is established to work as part of FIFA to evolve and develop the aforementioned ‘hybrid’ regulations. The AWG2 shall be made up of a representative group of members from agent stakeholders (point 4) and a select and appropriate representation of other football stakeholders directly affected by agent related activity.

Some may well scoff at these ideas, views and opinions, and thus deem them as unworkable and/or unfeasible. Yet, until those people present a valid reason(s) as to what is negating the implementation of those elements that: (1) are largely undisputed, and (2) have been in place previously (pre-2015) are unworkable, then I will stand by these proposals.


The fact is that at the point of writing the only people I can clearly see as winners in this dispute are the lawyers as there is no definitive opinion as to which side has a stronger case in the dispute.


Whilst a court case or dispute hearing will technically render a winner and a loser, I can’t help but think there will be far more losers in this matter than winners among the disputants.

If truly, any ‘winners’ at all?