FIFA’s Regulations for the Protection of Minors in Football
The 693-page FIFA Study Materials Documents consists of all the key documents distributed by FIFA that agents need to understand and be able to implement and adhere to in their profession. The documents comprehensively cover every aspect of regulation applicable to the work of a football agent.
For the purposes of this blog, we will consider two particular articles of two of the major FIFA Documents; article 13 of the FIFA Football Agent Regulations, and article 19 of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players. These articles specifically address the protection of minors within the game of football in relation to agents and international transfers and are to be regarded as being of utmost importance to ensure the appropriate management of under 18’s.
FFAR: Article 13
Article 13 of the FIFA Football Agent Regulations outlines FIFA’s policies for agents concerning the representation of minors. The article contains four important subsections that are explained below:
13.1: This clause has two components. Firstly, it stipulates that an agent can only make an approach to a youth player or their legal guardian if they are within six months of the legal age at which they would be able to sign their first professional contract based upon the laws of the country in which they are playing. For example, if a youth player played in a national association which prohibited players from entering into a professional contract until the age of 18, an agent would not be able to approach the player or their guardian in relation to their services as an agent unless the player was at least 17 years and 6 months old. Needless to say, this also means that a representation contract will not be signable nor legally valid if it is signed before the player is of this age.
Secondly, this clause also outlines the requirement that in order for an agent to appropriately make such an approach to a minor, they must have obtained prior written consent from the legal guardian of the young player. Without this, the agent’s approach will infringe upon FIFA’s regulations designed for the protection of minors and hence, the individual concerned will be subject to disciplinary action outlined in 13.4. Importantly, this clause makes it clear that oral consent is not sufficient and that the agent must be able to produce evidence of written consent.
13.2: The second clause in article 13 states that it will not be permissible for an agent to engage in representing a minor, or a club in a transaction involving a minor, unless they have previously completed the FIFA Continuing Professional Development (CPD) course relevant to minors. They must also ensure they have the necessary authority to engage in such activity involving minors in line with wider national laws or the FIFA member association under which the minor is employed. This may include further qualifications and checks to confirm an individual’s suitability for engaging with minors.
13.3: This clause outlines the provisions and requirements for the representation agreement or contract between a minor and an agent to be legally enforceable and valid. Three components are stated. Firstly, the contract must meet the minimum requirements for a valid representation agreement given in article 12 of the FFAR, this is the inclusion of the names of the parties, the duration of the agreement, the financial obligations (service fee), the nature of services provided by the agent, and the signatures of all involved parties. Secondly, the agent must also have conclusively complied with and adhered to clauses 1 and 2 as explained above. Finally, the extension to a representation agreement between a minor and an agent is that the contract must also be signed by the legal guardian of the player as well as the minor, in line with national laws.
13.4: The final point mentioned within article 13 briefly touches upon the disciplinary policy that FIFA will adopt if the regulations in the article are undermined or infringed upon by an agent. Particularly regarding clause 1 and the manner of approach to minors, a violation of these guidelines will be sanctioned by a fine of a specified sum as well as a suspension of the individual’s license as a football agent. Such a suspension can apply for up to two years depending upon the circumstances. This will be assessed on a case by case basis.
RSTP: Article 19
The FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players is the largest content of the FIFA Study Materials. The 101 pages covers a variety of key aspects such as training compensation, third party influence, player registration and contractual stability. Article 19 is split into three sections; 19. Protection of Minors; 19bis. Registration and Reporting of Minors at Academies; and 19ter. Trials. They all contain very significant details regarding the management of minors in transactions between clubs and in international transfers.
The key point of article 19 is given in clause 19.1 and states that “the international transfer of players is only permitted if the player is over the age of 18”. In other words, the general principle is that a minor is not permitted to transfer internationally. However, clause 19.2 complicates matters by providing five exceptions to 19.1 in which this general principle can be dismissed. These are explained as follows:
- An international transfer of a minor may legally take place if the player’s parents (i.e. their legal guardians) relocate to another country in which the new club is located. Importantly, the relocation of the family must be for a purpose or reason that is not related or linked in any way to football.
- This is a specific exception that only applies if the player is at least 16 years old, but still under 18; and where either the transfer takes place within the European Union or the European Economic Area or if it is between two associations within the same country. If either of these criteria are met, the new club to which the minor is transferring to must also be shown to fulfil the minimum obligations provided in 19.2b (iii-vi). The four requirements are:
- The club must facilitate the player’s training as a youth player in line with the highest national standards. This is also referred to as ‘adequate football education’.
- The club must also guarantee academic schooling or vocational training, providing the minor with a secondary career option if professional football does not materialise.
- Accommodation and access to mentoring are examples given of the necessary living and lifestyle arrangements that the club must also demonstrate they have organized for the player.
- Finally, the club must give proof that they have fulfilled all of the above obligations to the relevant national association in order to go ahead with the transfer.
- If the player lives within 50km of the national border and the club which the player wishes to transfer to is also within the same distance of the border, it may be permitted for the player to register with the club. In other words, the distance between the player’s residence and the new club must not exceed 100km. Hence, if the player moves, they will remain living in the same location. Additionally, both national associations must approve of the transfer and registration.
- Clause 19.2d concerns minors who endure forced relocation due to humanitarian reasons such as threats to their human rights including their lives, freedom, religion and race. In such instances the minor may be recognised as a refugee or protected person, allowing them to sign with a professional or amateur club. If they are instead recognised as an asylum seeker or vulnerable person, they are only permitted to sign with an amateur club until they turn 18.
- The final exception for the transfer of a minor internationally is if the player moves without the accompaniment of their parents for academic reasons such as a school ‘foreign exchange’ program. However, such a transfer may only be for a maximum of one single year with the new club and the club must be purely amateur. It is not permitted for the player to sign with a club that is professional itself or alternatively, one that has a link with a professional club.
The remainder of article 19 includes several other notable points. Firstly, it clarifies that the provisions of the article are also applicable to a player who has not previously been registered with any club but wishes to register with a club in a country that is not the one in which they live or are a national of. Furthermore, it is stipulated that the Player’s Status Chamber of the Football Tribunal, the procedures of which are outlined in the Procedural Rules Governing the Football Tribunal, is charged with the duty of approving international transfers and registrations of players that are over 10 years old. The national association which the minor is due to register with is also given the duty of ensuring that the circumstances of the transfer are included in the exceptions for the registration of a minor. And finally, the duty of care to the minor and to take measures in the safeguarding and protection as well as the education of the player is attached to the club with which they sign.
RSTP: Article 19bis.
Article 19bis of the FIFA Regulations on the Status and transfer of Players provides policies for the registration and reporting of minors at academies. It begins by stating that clubs that operate academies have a duty to report all minors who attend the academy to the national association. The relevant association will keep a register with personal details of each youth player. The association is also under a duty to disclose directly to FIFA if a minor is registered with an academy if they are not a national or have lived in the country for more than five years.
The article also mentions the concept of collaboration with private academies by clubs. In such instances the club is obliged to report the collaboration, ensure the players are also subsequently reported, prioritise the safeguarding of minors participating in the private academy and to report any wrongdoing or concerns over child safety. An emphasis is placed upon the practice and reinforcement of ethical principles, particularly in caring for minors.
RSTP: Article 19ter.
The first part of article 19ter does not specifically concern minors and instead outlines provisions for the conduct of clubs taking on trialists that are already professional footballers. For the purpose of this blog, we will consider clause 8 and 9 in article 19ter which stipulate the conditions specifically addressing minor trialists although the trial of a minor must also adhere to the regulations in the first 7 clauses.
In addition to the general trial guidelines, clause 8 states that when the trialist is a minor, the trial is only permissible if the trial begins after the minor’s 16th birthday or their 15th if the current and trialling clubs are both based in Europe. The club must make further endeavours such as obtaining written permission from the parents, designating an employee to specifically care for the trialist, the provision of accommodation and living standards which includes covering expenses and if the player is below 16, a signed FIFA trial form must be provided to the current club.
Finally, clause 9 adds that there is a limit on the number of trials which a minor can attend in a specific period of time. A minor can only attend a maximum of two in a single calendar year and each trial must be consistent with clause 4 of 19ter which permits the maximum duration of a trial for players below 21 years of age to eight weeks.
The three articles across the FIFA Football Agent Regulations and the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players are arguably some of the most important in the FIFA Study Materials. A key area of focus for FIFA, particularly in regards to the provision of agent services, is that there are adequate safeguarding measures implemented to protect young football players. Therefore, knowledge of these clauses is vital to avoid scrutiny and disciplinary sanctions that can be particularly severe in regards to damaging or undermining child safety. It is also important to extend your knowledge and understanding beyond just the FIFA Regulations and be aware of the implications and extent of National Association regulations that can place additional measures and restrictions on conduct with minors.
Don’t forget we are also running an online course providing the perfect preparation for how to pass the FIFA football agent exam on the 12th August. You can register for the course by clicking here. Alternatively, for readers based in Germany, we are also conducting an in-person event in Frankfurt on the 2nd September which you can register for by clicking here.