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Page last updated at 09:42 GMT, Tuesday, 5 October 2010 10:42 UK

Fifa to 'axe licensed agent rule'

Lausanne and CSKA Moscow
Fifa is concerned that only 25-30% of international transfers are concluded using licensed agents

By John Sinnott

Fifa is likely to ditch the system for regulating football agents because as few as 30% of international transfers are concluded using licensed agents.

The Football Association has told agents that "it's possible from October 2011 requirements for people becoming licensed agents will no longer apply".

Football consultant Tor-Kristian Karlsen, told BBC Sport: "The agent business is like the Wild West.

"It's messy and too time consuming for Fifa to police and too bureaucratic."

As well as helping to conduct transfers, agents advise players over sponsorship and image rights deals among other things and would normally be paid a percentage of a player's total contract, usually between 5-10%.

The bulk of agents' work is to do with transfers and they can play key roles in pushing through deals.

The logical and right way should be that the player pays for the representative out of his own pocket

Football consultant Tor-Kristian Karlsen

Fifa's current players' agent regulations only came into force on 1 January 2008, but over the last year a working group for the world governing body has met a number of times to review how the current system is working.

The working group will present its conclusions by the end of 2010 and the new regulations are set to be implemented after May 2011 with Fifa insisting that rather than deregulating the profession it is seeking "broader control over individuals who represent players and or clubs".

But with 70% of international transfers concluded by non-licensed agents, Fifa has effectively signalled that the current system is not working.

"A possible new approach could be to regulate the conduct of clubs and players, and extend the scope of the regulations to include all kinds of intermediaries," said Fifa in a statement.

"In other words, the regulations would stop attempting to regulate access to the activity, and instead control the activity itself.

"This would mean that players and clubs could choose any parties as intermediaries, be they legal entities, lawyers, relatives or spouses, but would have to meet certain criteria and respect certain principles.

"This approach would also result in the annulment of the current licensing system."

The world governing body also has concerns that there is "no relationship between the transfer fee paid by clubs and the commission paid to an intermediary".

TOP 10 COUNTRIES WITH MOST FIFA AGENTS
Italy: 725
Spain: 585
England: 428
Brazil: 328
Germany: 320
France: 277
Argentina: 190
Bosnia: 122
Nigeria: 119
Netherlands: 112

Fifa's statement added: "There is confusion about the distinction between club representatives and players' agents, and about who pays their fee."

Karlsen, who in the past has worked as an overseas scout for Watford and Bayer 04 Leverkusen as well as Hannover 96's chief scout, believes the current system has no set rules, making it unworkable.

"It's not uncommon that two agents receive a fee from one transfer deal", said Karlsen. "One may have brokered the deal on behalf of the club while the other represents the player and both would want their slice from the deal".

"But ultimately it's the club that decides on who gets paid and how much. There are no set rules or standards.

"In South America you often find players with up to a handful of agents, some of which they, or their parents, signed up with when they were young kids.

"When the player eventually gets a move to a professional club, or even better abroad, all the agents come knocking to claim their agent fee. It's impossible to police."

Karlsen also argues that the fees agents charge clients do not correspond to the work they put in.

"If you hire a lawyer to do the same job, he'd more than likely charge a standard hourly rate which isn't directly linked to the player's end salary," said Karlsen, who now advises a number of clubs about players in South America, Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

The role and conduct of agents has always been a contentious issue within the game. Since 2008 at least eight have been punished after being charged by the FA.

They include Wayne Rooney's agent Paul Stretford, Robbie Savage's representative George Urquhart and Willie McKay over his conduct in Benjani's transfer to Portsmouth.

Sam Stapleton was fined £75,000 and his players' agent licence was was suspended for 18 months, with 12 months of that ban suspended for two years, over his dealings with Zoltan Gera, who is now at Fulham.

In England the Professional Footballers' Association also represents a number players as regards transfers.

Paul Stretford (far left)
Wayne Rooney's agent Paul Stretford (far left) was suspended from "all agency activity" for nine months from May 2009

Over the last two years Fifa has also carried out 20 disciplinary investigations into the work of players' agents which led to sanctions in four of those cases. Three of those 20 investigations are still ongoing.

In 2007 Manchester United defender Gary Neville called for "the removal of agents from the game", arguing that players didn't "need people taking hundreds of thousands of pounds off them, just good advice from a solicitor or an accountant".

There are over 400 agents in England and the body representing them - the Association of Football Agents (AFA) - is due to discuss the issue at its board meeting on Tuesday and its general meeting on Wednesday.

AFA's chairman Mel Stein declined to comment on Fifa's changes ahead of those two meetings.

Agents are required to sit an exam every five years to re-qualify, with licensed agent Rob Shield saying he was one of only two to pass out of more than 100 people when he took the test.

The exam costs £200 to take with agents also required to take out insurance of approximately £500 a year.

"I can see why Fifa is reviewing it and will be interesting to see what they bring in," said Shield. "However, if anything they need to be tougher and more strict on clubs and players who don't follow the rules and guidelines."

However, Karlsen says that if an agent fails the exam in one country he can take it another one.

"I've seen several versions of the exam," said Karlsen. "They vary from country to country, some are tougher than others. If you fail in one country, nothing stops you to set up an address in for instance an African or Latin American country and get the licence there instead."

It is understood that the Football Association is happy to continue with the current system, but an FA spokesperson said: "We cannot comment on the specifics of any draft proposals at this time as consultations remain ongoing."

Last week Fifa introduced its Transfer Matching System which requires both clubs in a player's move to enter verified details of the payments and parties involved online.

Fifa claims the system will prevent criminals laundering money through football.

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see also
PSV turned down Bebe 'for free'
02 Sep 10 |  Man Utd
Bung inquiry targets 17 transfers
20 Dec 06 |  Football
FA approves new agent regulations
21 Nov 06 |  Football
Fifa to tackle money laundering
29 Sep 10 |  Football
Agents and Savage face FA charges
16 Sep 09 |  Football
FA charges agent over Gyepes move
15 Feb 07 |  Football
Liverpool wait on El Zhar ruling
02 Apr 10 |  Liverpool
Stretford loses appeal over ban
29 Dec 08 |  Football


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