On Friday 24th May 2013 over 100 professionals from the world of football attended the EFAA conference on 'Agents, Transfers and Regulation' at the UK headquarters of SEB Private Banking. In the conference room overlooking the magnificent St Paul's Cathedral, the attendees listened to three panels covering: transfers and agents, third party player investment, and career management.
session 1: Transfers and Agents
The first panel, moderated by Professor Richard Parrish of Edge Hill University and Nathalie Bouzat-Alaphilippe from the Centre de Droit et d'Economie du Sport (CDES) introduced the findings of the 2013 European Commission funded Study on 'The Economic and Legal Aspects of the Transfer of Players'. Mr Henk Kesler then outlined the work of the European Commission's Expert Group on agents and transfers, of which he is Chair. In his presentation, and in response to questions from the floor, Mr Kesler explained the importance of EFAA being afforded an effective role in any discussions leading to the adoption of a new set of agent regulations. EFAA General Manager Mr Robert Branco Martins then re-affirmed this point by referring to the Piau judgment of the European Court of Justice in which it only accepted the legitimacy of FIFA's regulation of agents in the absence of a collective body of agents to negotiate with. EFAA now stands as that collective body and should, according to the reasoning of the Court, take it's place at the heart of negotiations.
session 2: Third party player investment
The second panel, moderated by the Chair of the English Agents Association Professor Mel Stein, discussed third party ownership (TPO) of professional footballers. Professor Parrish outlined the current set of FIFA, UEFA and national association regulations and explained the benefit of, and objections to, TPO. Lawyers Daniel Geey, Marcos Motta and Gregor Reiter then explored the issue from a UK, Brazilian and German perspective. During the panel discussion the potential threats to football of TPO were discussed, such as the risk to the integrity of sporting competition, and in this connection UEFA's objections to TPO were discussed. But equally the risks of banning TPO - or third party investment as one speaker preferred to call it - were discussed, particularly with regard to the impact a general prohibition would have on competitive balance in European football and the impact on players. A number of delegates raised possible grounds for a legal challenge to an outright ban on TPO.
session 3: Career management
The final session, moderated by Mr Branco Martins, was conducted as a Q&A panel on career management issues. Helena Withmore from hosts SEB outlined the importance of players receiving the type of appropriate wealth management advice offered by SEB. Daniel Lorenz, Legal Director for FC Porto, highlighted the support his club offers players in order to ensure that their main focus remains on performing to the best of their abilities on the pitch. Licensed FA player agent, Leon Angel, discussed the role of an agent in providing career advice to a player and Stanley Brard, Gabala Head Academy Coach at FC Gabala (Azerbaijan) outlined the importance of creating the right environment in order to maximise the potential of young talent at clubs.
The conference highlighted many of the challenges football faces in the coming months and years, not least how to establish a set of workable and legally robust agent regulations. Although no formal conclusions were drawn, the central message to emerge from the conference was the need for the key stakeholders, including EFAA and the European Union, to work in a partnership for the good of the game, especially now FIFA has decided to stop with the current licensing system for agents and to introduce a set of minimum standards. The stakeholders will be part of the process to fill in the potential boundaries of such standards.