After 5+ years of uncertainty, debate, and arguments, could the controversial new FIFA Football Agent Regulations have sunk to a new and unenviable low in terms of problems in the last week? Just a week before the FFAR are scheduled to be implemented in full on 1st October 2023.
After what I have now entitled ‘The Debacle of Birmingham’ last week (20 September 2023) with the 2nd sitting of the new FIFA Football Agents exam in England, I and many others are now asking whether the FFAR and the subsequent exams and licensing are now so heavily mired on the basis of questions over integrity, fairness and validity that there is no quick fix or easy way out for FIFA (or FFAR).
It is fair to say that just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse surrounding FFAR, that is indeed what is happening. Which leads to FIFA and probably moreso the English Football Association struggling to ‘nail a jelly to the wall’ (after the Birmingham exam), before the scheduled implementation of FFAR in full, in just a few days time.
Whilst I still maintain that far too often The FA (England) have on many occasions over the years demonstrated complacency when it comes to the regulation of agents and also AWOL in their duty of care to licensed agents and registered intermediaries over the years, I do have a little bit of sympathy for The FA in this situation.
The fact is that the demands of FFAR have meant that they have been juggling in the last 9 months:
……. all of which are things that arguably the most heavily resourced and finely tuned organisations may struggle to contend with, given the circumstances.
Added to that, I would say that many people have, at one point in their lives, had to deal with IT issues beyond their control (in one form or another) at a crucial time – which seemed to be the case in the Birmingham exam with Wi-Fi and agent platform issues.
How well The Football Association handled the situation in Birmingham could be questioned, but until a full and independent investigation (of FIFA and the FA) is undertaken (I am doubtful it ever will happen), we will never know where the fault lies and what could and should have been done.
The FA in England is not alone in being dealt somewhat of a ‘hospital ball’ from FIFA (to use football parlance – for a bad pass that leaves the recipient injured) when it comes the implementation of FFAR and NFAR (national football agent regulations) and subsequently the implementation of 2 exams in the space of nine months, following the announcement of FFAR.
Added to this, there were numerous reports of various jurisdictions (and national Football Associations) having technical issues with both the first sitting of the exam (in April) and the latest exam (in September) whilst others report the second exam running smoothly.
The simple fact is that after years of delay and procrastination it could be argued that FIFA made a ‘rod for their own backs’ and subsequently those of their own Member Associations (including The FA in England) in implementing a very restrictive 9-month timeline for full implementation of the FFAR. It is unclear of how informed the various national associations were in the consultation over FFAR and whether their concerns were heeded or acted upon by FIFA.
It is not so much the Birmingham exam and the mass disarray that ensued that has led to the questions of integrity that now hang over FFAR and the licensing of football agents. But also, the measures and decisions that seem to have been made thereafter by both FIFA and The FA (although I think the latter would have taken instruction from the former in what would be permitted and arguably what to do).
Some of the questions that now have to be asked over the Football Agent exam are:
……. these ultimately bring into question the integrity of the exam, the value of the license and the widely publicised aims of FIFA with FFAR in the first place.
Many may think that we are at a point of no return with this debacle and there is no way to offset or rectify these issues. Despite my best efforts, pragmatism and trying my best to think of how the situation can be addressed, I can see very few ways out after:
Having been heavily invested in the process of FFAR for several years now and the matters surrounding football agent regulations going back many years, I doubt that this mess over FFAR could get any worse, either domestically in certain jurisdictions, or indeed globally ….. but FIFA through ignorance, arrogance or pure naivety seem to have managed it.
So where do we go from here? The sad fact is that I don’t honestly know at this stage. I am somewhat out of ideas where efforts to the reset the balance and repair the damage will not upset or unfairly penalise someone who is innocently caught up in this mess, mainly through no fault of their own.
Whilst I have long had the suspicion that although they couldn’t publicly say it, the likes of the FA in England and other national football associations don’t want FFAR (for a variety of reasons), and that they have gone along with FIFA just to ‘play ball’ (pardon the pun).
Whilst in France and Italy national legislation shields the national football associations and football participants from FFAR domestically, and an injunction in Germany seemingly does the same, are both vocally objecting parties to FFAR (e.g. EFAA, TFF) joined surreptitiously by football associations and other football stakeholders in praying external forces block FIFA and the FFAR?
In all honesty, the only way I can see any ‘light at the end of this’ is that FFAR is voided and we revert back to RWWI (Regulations on Working With Intermediaries) of 2015 which is far from ideal, or the FIFA Player Agent Regulations of 2008).
If in the coming days the ‘Rule K’ arbitration in England finds in favour of the agents, that could well ‘tip the balance’, and ultimately, with the FFAR effectively blocked in France, Italy, Germany, and thus England it severely weakens FFARs validity and impact.
Added to that, the cases brought by the likes of TFF (The Football Forum) and others in other jurisdictions, as well as any judgement by the ECJ, could well be the final ‘nails in the coffin’ of FFAR ………… but what then?
The fact is that the matter of licensing and integrity with the FFAR is now seriously in doubt, and something has to be done.
Could some at FIFA even secretly be hoping that their own new FIFA Football Agent Regulations are blocked, and thus matters ‘taken out of their hands’, and ‘save them losing face’ (well not as much as they could).
I have no words apart from …………… shambolic.