FIFA Football Agent Regulations Suspended Worldwide

The Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has temporarily suspended the FIFA Football Agent Regulations (FFAR) till the European Court of Justice decides on the matter pending before it.

The circular dated December 30, 2023, states that FIFA pondered over suspending the regulations’ operation with respect to any transfer with a link to the European Union, to implement an injunction recently issued by the District Court of Dortmund. However, noting that this would “create a situation of unequal legal standards”, FIFA decided to suspend the regulations worldwide.

A month before the issue of this circular, an English Football Association (FA) Tribunal held that the proposed provisions relating to fee caps and pro rata payment rules in the National Football Agent Regulations (NFAR) would be violative of the UK competition law. The FA, as a member of FIFA, was required to comply with FIFA regulations and hence proceeded to implement the FFAR, through the NFAR. The claimants, four football agencies from the UK and abroad, challenged certain rules under the NFAR which provided for a cap on football agents’ fees, payment to be made over the life of the player’s contract, prohibition of payment on behalf of the player and a bar on multi-representation. It was alleged that the NFAR was an anti-competitive agreement and amounted to abuse of dominant position by the FA in contravention of provisions of the Competition Act 1998. Further, the claimants asserted that the proposed rules would result in an unreasonable restraint of trade under common law and hence, were unlawful.

The Tribunal ruled that the implementation of fee caps and pro-rate payment rules in the NFAR would amount to a breach of provisions of the 1988 Act. It was also noted that the FA had a dominant position in the market for agents’ services in England, and enforcing fee caps and pro-rate payment rules would constitute an abuse of its dominant position. However, the other provisions pertaining to the client pays principle and the prohibition on dual representation remain unaffected by this ruling.

FFAR’s legality was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in July 2023, and challenges to FFAR have been dismissed by Courts in several jurisdictions. However, its implementation was delayed on account of pending cases. In May 2023, the District Court of Dortmund issued a temporary injunction suspending the operation of FFAR in its entirety for all transactions with a link to the German market. Months later, the Commercial Court of Madrid temporarily restrained the implementation of cap on commission.