Football intermediaries: new wave on changes.

27 DIC 2018

Derecho Deportivo

We write this article to comment on some of the changes that the UEFA Task Force (made up of representatives of FIFPRO, UEFA, ECA, representatives of some national federations, among other experts) is proposing and working to modify what they consider that is another aspect of professional football that should be reviewed once again. Change of normative criteria that contrasts precisely with the latest policy of UEFA itself, which deregulated this matter in the most recent past. In a few years the paradigm has completely changed, UEFA believes that the intermediary market is having a huge impact on professional football and should be regulated again, however,  in a different sense. Authentic Coperniquí turn in regulatory matters.

The workshops are being carried out in group meetings and with a deadline period of time. There exists a very well structured calendar that includes, at specific and measured moments, meetings with representatives of the agents and intermediaries themselves to obtain ideas and feed back on the proposals and regulatory hypotheses. The intention of UEFA is to have the new text finished so that it is published and becomes effective in June 2019, the date on which the command of Infantino expires.

We will comment on some of these proposals, the most interesting and novel, still, in the embryonic phase. A lot can still change because there are details to polish and even models to choose. But we find it extremely interesting to advance where the shots go, at least, to December 2018:

1º) Creation of a "Clearing House" or "Compensation Chamber": with the main objective of centralizing and simplifying the payments made in each transfer. Nonetheless, this initiative cannot be implemented until the spring of 2020, and would be based on the technological resources of the TMS, especially at the local level.

2º) Create a new operational framework: return to a system of intermediary registration, make contracts public and all its conditions (prohibit confidentiality for reasons of transparency), increase the rigor to avoid the conflicts of interest, link the collection of fees from intermediaries for the duration of the sports contract itself, strengthening compliance with the contractual duties of those involved (including clubs and players for the payment of commissions and fees of intermediaries) and, something very novel, the establishment of  an arbitration system for dispute resolution. Everything, with a limited temporary, since the group of experts considers that the regulations should be reviewed every 2/3 years.

3º) To reinforce the systems and normative methods to make effective the payment obligations derived from the solidarity mechanism and the training rights: the "Task Force" ensures that more than half of these amounts do not reach the creditor teams and clubs. There are even 2 different models: one, which mixes both institutions into a single 6% with an extra 1% for a newly created specific FIFA fund, thus eliminating payments to the player's "transit clubs" (ie, this model prevails over the institution of the solidarity mechanism that the rights for player training, for reasons of regulatory policy); and another less reformist model where both institutions are kept separate and where the payment of training rights is increased as the player joins higher-level teams, and vice versa (reducing these rights if the player goes down from the sports category), In both cases, the rankings will be relaxed to establish these categories.

4º) New framework of loans: prohibit "bridge loans", limit such loans to a periods of this 6-8 months, restrict the number of possible loan to 3 (both to lend and to receive on loan, except for homegrown players by under 21).

5º) More protection for minors (the eternal concern of FIFA never satisfied): the objectives are the same as always, but the necessary legal security is not achieved nor has an adequate protection system been established. The doubts are enormous, especially, 2: how to balance the rights of the minor to have access to new opportunities with the aim of avoiding their sport exploitation? And in the EU environment, how to fit this regulation with the EU Regulations itself, in particular, the rights of free movement and work of the citizens of the member states? Unanswered questions that will continue to give a lot to talk about. Even in supranational legal institutions.

6º) Review the maximum number of members of the sports templates (25 to 28 players): the most novel is that it is proposed that the players transferred do not count for these purposes.

7º) Analysis of  the transfer market: possible limitation of the number of operations / transfers to be carried out / finalized  once the season has started.

8º) Tax matter: it is one of the most novel changes or proposals, although the group of experts has still hardly developed them. At the moment, there is talk of exploring the possibility of paying specific taxes for the transfers themselves and, something very relevant, establishing "floor and cap on transfer fee / player's salaries". So important it seems to us, at all levels, that we quote the literal text of the "Task Force". It is considering the possibility of regulating maximum and minimum limits for the payment of salaries to players and, even, for the payment of fees for transfer intermediation. To get ahead of any of these proposals would mean an authentic revolution, not only of the transfer market, but also of the sports competition.

And those are the measures that the Task force has put on the table. The last one, so diffuse and undeveloped that we intuit, will not go ahead, being more of a measure of reactive analysis (to know the stances of the stakeholders precisely) than of a real objective of reform. A kind of "balloon probe". However, what is clear is that professional football is continually changing and evolving and that, here, the new regulatory changes will occur.

Gerardo Siguero Muñoz.

Sergio Barrasa Anton.

CODE ABOGADOS. Sports Law Department.