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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 February 2007, 14:48 GMT
Football agents tackle FA on new rules
By Bill Wilson
Business reporter, BBC News

Football tackle in Premiership match
Big sums are paid to football agents by players and clubs

Anger is continuing to grow among football agents as a new set of rules governing player transactions is due to be introduced this summer.

The matter is coming to a head, with the Football Association (FA), the game's governing body in England, determined to establish a clear set of guidelines that make the roles of all involved in a player transfer more transparent.

The new rules come in the wake of a series of high-profile allegations about some misconduct by agents.

However, the agents, who have been operating within what they say have been industry norms established in 1996, are not happy.

In fact, the FA has been given notice of legal action being taken against them by agents, whose chief spokesman is sports' lawyer Mel Stein.

Mr Stein, chairman of the Association of Football Agents, is preparing - with his colleagues at Clintons law firm - an injunction to stop the FA implementing its new rules.

"The new proposed regulations go far beyond having a relationship between licensed agents and the FA," Mr Stein told a C5 "Sports Law & Business" seminar in London.

We are not trying to drive agents out of the game and this is certainly not a witch-hunt
FA spokesman

Mr Stein sees the FA's approach as an attack, "a witch-hunt", on agents.

"The FA wants to drive agents out of the game, but we are necessary to maintain balance within the sport," he says.

"The whole balance between agents and players and the FA and clubs has always worked for the past 10 years.

"We are going to fight the FA on this."

'Rotten apples'

However the FA denies the accusations and says that its changes are for the good of the game.

"What we are doing is bringing in a set of regulations which will improve transparency, address potential conflicts of interest, and better and move-effectively regulate these areas of the game," an FA spokesman told the BBC.

But Mr Stein says the new regulations are anti-competitive, and in some places illegal.

They include a ban on dual representation, whereby an agent acts for both parties in a deal.

Clubs will also not now be able pay agents directly. instead payment will be deducted from a player's salary.

And overseas agents will be required to register with the FA when involved in a transaction in England, thereby giving the FA jurisdiction over them.

FA transfer measures
Prevents dual representation
Clubs must deal with the player's agent
Overseas agents working in England to register with FA
Exempt persons (lawyers, close family members) now come under FA jurisdiction
Bans sub-contracting to unlicensed agents
Prohibits agents owning interests in players
Prevents agents switching from working for player to their club
Stops agent acting for more than one club in a deal involving same player
Payments to agents made by club only as a salary deduction

"I am not suggesting that every agent is an angel," Mr Stein said.

"In any industry there will always be rotten apples in the barrel. Accountants and lawyers get struck off. Wherever there is money there is going to be an element of corruption.

"You need a system that is fair and proportionate, as you need in any industry," said Mr Stein, whose association AFA represents six top UK agencies and a further 70 individual agents.

"Do you need the regulations that are being thought about by the FA? No, they are disproportionate," he says.

"We need to have consultation period with them as the FA has not spoken to the main players in the game."

Another area of concern for the AFA has been over the issue that only individuals can be registered as agents and not corporations.

'Not proportionate'

Sam Rush, chief operating officer of agency WMG, which recently bought well-known football agency SFX, echoed those concerns.

"We (WMG) are trying to create a business across the sports world. We have 15 football agents," he said.

We are working in an industry where people are well-paid
Sam Rush, WMG agency

"But these FA regulations - there are a dozen which will have an impact - make it a very unattractive business to be in and makes it hard for anyone to grow any sort of business in football.

"These new rules seem to encourage hundreds of individuals rather than companies.

"The consultation period has been non-existent. The players have not been consulted. There has been no great review.

"The aims of the regulations and of the governing body are disproportionate."

BBC investigation

And Mr Rush said that he felt the measures had been introduced partly because of media pressure.

"I think one of the primary motivations are the large sums that players are paying to agents.

"These sums of money are huge, because players' wages are huge, and TV revenue is huge. We are working in an industry where people are well-paid."

Luton Town manager Mike Newell
Mike Newell claimed he had been offered cuts of transfer monies
The issue of payments to agents has been in the spotlight over the past year, with the Stevens Inquiry, precipitated by the Premier League, looking at whether clubs or their officials had broken rules over transfer deals.

Luton Town manager Mike Newell also spoke out last year to claim he had been offered illegal payments, or "bungs", by agents to conclude certain deals.

He said agents have offered him financial cuts of transfer deals, and presented evidence to the FA.

And a BBC Panorama investigation made a number of allegations about transfer dealings in England.

'Improved transparency'

"We are not trying to drive agents out of the game and this is certainly not a witch-hunt," the FA spokesman said.

"We recognise agents have a role to play, and England has more licensed agents then virtually any other country in the world."

The agent added that "in putting together these regulations, we consulted with all sectors of the game, including agents".

However when the regulations are in place the Premier League will not be following the Football League's lead in making public their payments to agents.

Twice a year the Football League publishes a list of what each of its clubs spends on agents, in an effort to improve transparency in the game.




SEE ALSO
FA facing delay on 'bung' clubs
09 Jan 07 |  Football
Bung inquiry targets 17 transfers
20 Dec 06 |  Football
FA approves new agent regulations
21 Nov 06 |  Football
BBC hands over Panorama evidence
23 Sep 06 |  Football
Newell has evidence of bung offer
13 Jan 06 |  Luton Town
Football League target agent fees
15 Nov 05 |  Business

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