A Review of the First FIFA Football Agent Exam (April 2023): Reflecting on the Experiences, Outcomes and Preparing for the Next One…
On Wednesday the 19th of April, around 3,800 individuals sat the newly reintroduced FIFA Football agent exam across 138 countries. Many of these individuals had already been working as licensed agents for a few years already but the new licensing requirements demand that they pass the exam in order to remain as an agent operating in the football world. There had been a great deal of anticipation and discussion towards the exam in the weeks leading up to it and beyond the conclusion of the exam, the discussions have continued.
Now that we are aware of the global results of the exam and having spoken to agents who sat the exam in over 30 countries, this blog will compile a detailed review of the first FIFA Agent Exam sitting, from the areas for improvement to the positives. We will assess the structure of the actual exam, summarise the event and how it differed across national associations and finally, the results of the candidates taking the examination this time around.
As expected, the majority of feedback we have received confirmed that the FIFA agent exam covered a range of topics taken from the six key FIFA documents; the FIFA Football Agent Regulations (FFAR); the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players (RSTP); FIFA Statutes; FIFA Code of Ethics; FIFA Disciplinary Code (FDC); and the FIFA Guardians Child Safeguarding Toolkit. In total, agents were assessed on their knowledge of the 528 pages of material and asked to answer multiple choice questions on their digital device that they must have provided themselves.
In some associations with advanced time zones, agents had completed the examination well in advance of other agents attempting the exam in other parts of the world. There was a great deal of communication between global agents, discussing the questions and answers and trying to obtain an advantageous insight into the contents of the exam. However, FIFA had structured the exam by collating a pool of around 200 questions which were then randomly selected in each paper. Consequently, the chances of an agent sitting the exact same examination as anybody else in the same room or those agents that had taken the exam earlier in the day, was extremely low. This meant that the advice given by agents who had already sat the exam for which topics to focus on for last minute revision, was null and void as the chances of the same difficult question appearing was unlikely.
Many have argued this is unfair as the knowledge required for different questions varied and hence, some agents sat ‘easier’ examinations than others. The final point on this is that the random combination meant that the original suggestion from FIFA that 70% of the exam would consist of FFAR and RSTP questions was not possible due to the randomisation of the question pool. Some candidates reported having up to four questions on the same article of the regulations in their exam.
Not only were the questions randomly selected, many who took the exam accused several questions raised as being detached from the regulations and FIFA documents and either called for speculation or subjective opinion, often not clearly defined and vague, far from testing the aptitude and knowledge of agents as it should have been designed to do. In extreme cases, candidates have reported that some questions were given in another official FIFA language regardless of the language they had selected to sit the examination in.
Candidates had one hour to answer all 20 questions but were able to skip over questions and return to them if they felt unsure or to double check their answers if time allowed. However, in one country it was reported that the invigilator had told candidates they had 7 minutes left of the exam but the FIFA portal automatically closed the examination page after 3 minutes meaning many agents had left questions unanswered or hadn’t factored in enough checking time. There have been formal complaints made to FIFA via the relevant national association and there have been calls for the agents to be allowed to resit the exam.
There has been an incredibly broad spectrum of reviews and thoughts shared with us about how the exam was actually run in different parts of the world.
To begin with, the build up to the exam in the weeks and days leading up to the 19th of April caused stress and complications for many hoping to take the exam. In some national associations there were reports of long delays in responses to emails, the distribution of the payment methods to take the exam and a lack of communication with candidates regarding details of the day and the exam. Many have admitted to arriving at their relevant examination venue not entirely certain that they would be permitted to take the exam as they had never received a payment receipt or any kind of confirmation that they were accepted as a candidate for the exam.
The payment itself caused debate amongst agents across the world. In some countries, the charge to take the exam was around $50 USD (there are reports it was free of charge in a small handful) whilst in others the cost was upwards of $1000 USD and higher than the minimum salary in the country. Clearly a standardised cost had not been stipulated by FIFA and national associations were able to arbitrarily set the charge however they saw fit, possibly financially benefiting themselves from doing so.
If the build-up alone hadn’t created enough discussion and confusion, the day of the exam itself only exasperated the general feeling towards the exam. In many countries, large delays in the beginning of the exam were reported for a variety of reasons. Although in some associations there was less than a handful of agents that arrived to attempt the exam, in one country, there were almost 1000 candidates and hence the check-in process was incredibly long and queues lined up for a substantial distance, waiting to present a form of identification and proof of payment, which some had never received. Other reasons included Wifi connection failures, FIFA Platform crashes, invigilator confusion, and issues with a slow and faulty exam system.
In some countries, the exam itself didn’t begin until well over an hour after it was due to start and candidates were forced to sit and wait until they were told to begin. Some candidates eventually started later than others and were deprived of time at the end of the exam through no responsibility of their own. The platform can be improved to handle so many simultaneous logins which caused the crashes this time around. It was a common theme across many different national associations that many started significantly late.
According to FIFA guidelines, candidates were required to provide their own laptop in order to access the exam through the FIFA Agent Platform, and were allowed a clear plastic water bottle as well as the FIFA Study Materials without personal annotations. They would then be provided with pen and paper for mathematical calculations. However, our feedback has shown that these strict measures had not been properly communicated with many national associations and were not adequately enforced. In less severe cases, candidates took the exams through their iPads and tablets, simultaneously accessing social media platforms and communication methods such as Whatsapp should they so require. Many candidates also loaded the FIFA Study Materials digitally, facilitating the use of the ‘control + F’ function to quickly find relevant sections of the documents to answer a question. However, in one particular national association there was a problem with loading the study materials and only the first 40 pages appeared for candidates through the FIFA platform. There was then a delay as candidates had to reason with invigilators and determine whether it was acceptable to access the study materials through their own route.
Unfortunately, the ability to evade FIFA’s exam conduct rules was even more severe in some associations. From the feedback we have received from candidates, there were many reports of collusion and collaboration between candidates. It seems there was a worrying lack of control in many national association examination rooms and FIFA rules were generally poorly enforced globally. In one particularly extraordinary case we were informed of, a candidate was seated next to the in-house lawyer of their agency who reportedly used his log in details and passed the exam on behalf of the prospective agent.
One of the biggest concerns with the new FIFA agent exam for many across the world is that they could only choose to sit the exam in three official FIFA languages; English, French and Spanish. For a large portion of candidates, this was their second or even third language and created an additional dimension of difficulty, especially under time pressure. Feedback from some Arabic and German agents particularly highlighted this issue. However, we have been informed that in some countries, the invigilators permitted candidates to use digital translation tools to translate the questions into their preferred language. This not only goes against the FIFA policy for the exam but also puts these candidates at an advantage over other agents who could not translate the questions and were forced to tackle them in an unfamiliar language. Some candidates have already lodged formal complaints about this to FIFA.
In many countries there was also chaos following the end of the exam process which created further difficulties. The FIFA portal shut automatically after the 60 minutes had expired but many candidates who finished prematurely were able to freely get up, chatter and wander away from the examination room whilst others continued to take the exam. This created inappropriate exam conditions for those trying to complete the examination and has led to further complaints.
The lack of control created an imbalance and inequality of opportunity for agents to pass the exam in different parts of the world. Those that were not able to sidestep strict regulations are automatically disadvantaged against others in different associations that had access to social media platforms, digital help and could collaborate with other candidates. The hope is that for the exam in September, FIFA will ensure that every national association is adequately informed of the enforceable examination conditions and a system is implemented to appropriately enforce them.
Other factors had not been considered by FIFA nor the national associations that should be accounted for in examinations going forward. For example, time concessions for candidates that require disability allowances were not made and we had several reports that those that contacted their national association enquiring about the possibility were either ignored or rejected. Disabilities such as dyslexia, ADHD and more cause candidates to have slower processing speeds and difficulties in answering questions in a high-pressured and distracting environment within such a short time frame. In most examination scenarios, these candidates are granted additional time or other measures to appease the difficulties but this was not the case in the first FIFA Agent Exam.
The general feeling in the immediate aftermath of the exam was that candidates had found it particularly difficult and felt like some of the questions either weren’t contained in the FIFA documents or were designed to catch people out and cause them to fail. In our poll we found that out of 120 candidates, 70% found the exam either ‘challenging’ or ‘very difficult’ whilst only 5% voted that they had found the exam ‘easy’.
One of the most difficult things for candidates that have been reported to us is the mental anguish of not immediately knowing the results. Many spent the week following the exam contemplating their answers and overthinking any mistakes they may have made. There is an argument that perhaps as it is an objective multiple choice examination sat digitally, the results could be released immediately following or within a few hours of completing the exam. However, this is an issue that needs to be thoroughly strategised to avoid creating any unwanted problems.
Despite many eagerly awaiting their results on the Wednesday, exactly a week after the exam as expected, there was discussion that instead it was 7 working days and the results may be released on Friday. As it turned out, it was Thursday that candidates across the world began to receive intermittent emails congratulating them on passing the exam and inviting them to complete the final stage of obtaining their licence; paying the fee! Significantly, candidates were not given details on their exact score on the exam; it was simply a pass or a rejection.
Prior to 2015, the pass rate for the exam had stood at around 20% and it was expected that a similar proportion would be successful this time around. To the surprise of many, 52% of the 3,800 individuals (1962) that sat the exam received emails confirming they had passed the exam. Several gave us feedback stating that as they left the exam hall they were adamant they had answered more than 5 questions incorrectly and so were shocked to see they had passed. The only official statement following the exam results given by FIFA is to confirm the number of candidates that passed. No comment has yet been made as to whether the pass mark was set at 15 as previously stated. The pass rate saw varying numbers in different associations, possibly caused by the difficulties in language and translation. For example, in one non-English, French or Spanish speaking country, only 13 out of 120 candidates successfully passed the exam.
The volume of feedback and thoughts that we received from agents across the world in contributing to this blog indicates the significance of the first sitting of the new FIFA Football Agent exam. Candidates, and now licensed agents, felt appropriately passionately about expressing their opinions and sharing their experiences of the exam. Not only has this information helped in educating the next cohort of candidates that may look to sit the exam in September, but also informs FIFA and National Associations the areas for improvement for next time and how to deliver the best possible and fairest exam for agents to prove themselves and obtain their licence.
Congratulations to all who were successful in their attempt of the exam this time around and to those that did not pass, there is no need to be concerned, there is sufficient time to prepare for September and pass at the next attempt.
For those already planning to sit the next exam in September, keep an eye on the Erkut Sogut Academy social media platforms for more information on exam preparation courses.
Blog: The New FIFA Agent Exam
Book: How to Become a Football Agent (3rd Edition)
Youtube: The World of Football Explained