Is it Time to Create the World Football Agents Union?
In a time where football agents are now subjected to new FIFA Football Agent Regulations and have been under public scrutiny in recent times for the volume of money that is seen to be leaving the game, perhaps the most straightforward solution to these issues is for agents to establish themselves as a major stakeholder within the beautiful game.
To become a stakeholder, this simply means that agents would form a group or union that has a vested interest in the decision-making processes and organisation of the world’s biggest sport. An agent’s union could form as an independent stakeholder in direct contact with the other major stakeholders in football, such as FIFA and the ECA, in order to ensure that the voices of agents are heard and represented throughout the world of football.
This blog will consider the stakeholders within football in the current landscape and how the development of a group of agents as an official stakeholding member of the football community could produce significant benefits for the improvement of the game and the industry as a whole.
Current Major Stakeholders
To explain how agents could unite together and position themselves as stakeholders in football, let’s look at the other major stakeholders in the current modern game:
- FIFA: This is the most well-known and widely spoken about stakeholder in football. FIFA is the primary governing body that passes rules and regulations aimed at developing and improving that game of football internationally. It is also one of the longest standing stakeholders, having been founded in 1904 and has overseen international competitions and association football ever since.
- FIFPRO: Perhaps better known as the stakeholder acting on behalf of the football players themselves. FIFPRO’s objective is to defend and uphold the rights of players and put forward their concerns, issues and opinions on certain matters in football to benefit their interests. FIFPRO is an international stakeholder, formed by many separate national player unions that collate areas and policies that impact players and express how they believe they should be amended or adopted positively for players.
- ECA: The European Club Association takes on a similar role to FIFPRO but instead acts on behalf of the association football clubs within the UEFA confederation of Europe. It was only relatively recently formed in 2008 but has established itself as the main voice recognised by FIFA and UEFA as being responsible for advocating for the wellbeing and interests of European football clubs.
These organisations are examples of how stakeholders form and what exactly the roles and responsibilities of being a stakeholder are.
Agents as Stakeholders
In the current climate, despite having a significant impact on football, FIFA does not formally recognise agents as major stakeholders in football. Unions of agents do exist but not in a manner which is purposeful or beneficial for agents internationally.
Currently, FIFA does not recognise agents as stakeholders as there is no unity between agents nor a properly structured ‘single umbrella’ of agents. This is an advantage for FIFA’s position of power and allowed them to create their own agent group. The current FIFA Agent Platform or “Working Group” is the only “representative body” recognised by FIFA that may appear to be made up of “agents”. FIFA describes its role as a permanent consultative body for agents. However, it is not the kind of beneficial and desirable union that agents are seeking to express their opinions formally and effectively. The group is made up of 18 individuals and is realistically an extension of FIFA and is organised and financed by FIFA itself, failing to truly represent the interests of agents but rather the interests of FIFA. A body created and maintained by FIFA cannot possibly objectively promote the interests of agents.
Organisations such as the Professional Football Agents Association exist and PROFAA was actually the union named by FIFA within their “consultation process” regarding the new football agent regulations. However, much like the agent working group, the association is not accurately representative of the agent landscape. In fact, it represents around 0.1% of agents globally. Many of the individuals that are part of PROFAA are not actually practising agents and represent a very small minority of the reality. There needs to be a more accurate representative global union that acts as a body protecting the best interests of agents.
Similarly, satellite unions are forming in other countries such as the Association of Football Agents (AFA) in England which have taken on the responsibility of heading the legal case against FIFA over the new regulations. Despite such an approach, the union is still not formally recognised by FIFA and is unable to be representative of agents internationally. Other examples of smaller unions yet to manage to emerge and establish themselves as an independent stakeholder recognised by FIFA include the European Football Agents Association (EFAA), and The Football Forum, set up by some of the most well-known individuals in football agency. There are also agent associations in countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Brazil. However, these unions are not formally organised or majorly actively collaborating with FIFA directly and are primarily focused on legal opposition against the new regulations.
Our belief is that, in light of the new regulations and legal proceedings against them, now is the time for agents to unite and for the establishment of a globally recognised and officially approved agents body that acts as a major stakeholder within football. Perhaps forming something along the lines of a “World Football Agents Union”.
Currently, agents are subject to the arbitration and regulation of FIFA who may divide and rule as they see fit, without formally recognised resistance from an agent union. Perhaps only once such a position as a stakeholder is adopted by agents, will the profession receive adequate respect and authority in voicing concerns and opposing unfair regulation and circumstances.
The best way to launch such a union would be to create a formal platform which outlines its own regulations, board and organisation and takes on members first. The next step would be to increase in size and begin to collaborate with FIFA working towards various improvements to the agency profession. After this work, there is the chance to become recognised formally as an independent stakeholder.
By bringing global agents under a single global umbrella as a stakeholder will provide a stable platform and foundation for agents to improve not only their own industry but also the football landscape in its entirety. A union creates a robust and unified force that can aim for a universally consistent goal of improving the agent industry such as establishing appropriate regulations with FIFA.
Importantly, the unified agent body must be truly representative of agents across the world unlike the current FIFA Working Group. In other words, the voices of top agents as well as smaller agencies must be able to be heard and represented. In this way, it ensures that all regulations and conduct of agents internationally can be considered and adapted in order to create a beneficial and ethical landscape for every agent operating in the industry.
Clearly there would be many benefits for agents becoming recognised stakeholders in football. It is necessary for agents to be able to safeguard and promote their own well-being within an industry they play such a pivotal role within. It is unfair and counter-productive that a profession which influences transfers and financial transactions so prominently in the sport are not treated with appropriate diligence and respect and granted the platform to express how the agent industry may best be overseen and regulated.
Being a stakeholder within the game of football is a straightforward way of ensuring that whichever party or group of individuals are being represented have the necessary influence and impact to protect themselves and advance their interests to benefit the sport as a whole. Therefore, it seems undeniable that agents should be given an equal position and should act as major stakeholders in football to reflect the work that they do and the impact that they have.