Author: David Winter
Lawyer 

Versions of the article availables in others languages:

                                                               

Published and translated by the firm Winter – Dávila & Associés
Paris, 02 January 2024                                                                 

Last month, we analysed the obstacles encountered by FIFA in relation to its new Agents Regulations, which came into force on 1 October 2023 (FIFA Football Agents Regulations: Legal or Illegal?).

After describing the legal battles it had faced, we concluded: “World football’s governing body will have to decide whether to backtrack on this initiative by amending the regulations on football agents or, on the contrary, to keep them anyway.

A few weeks later, on 30 December 2023 to be precise, the verdict came down in FIFA circular no. 1873: “The FIFA Council Bureau has approved the temporary worldwide suspension of the regulations affected by the above-mentioned ruling of the German court until the Court of Justice of the European Union issues its final decision in the ongoing proceedings concerning the FIFA Agents Regulations.

As a reminder, the rules in question, which are challenged by the Dortmund District Court, are as follows:

  • The maximum limit of the service compensation (Article 15(1) to (4)).
  • The rules for payment of the service fee (Article 14(6), (8) and (11)).
  • The rule for payment by the customer (Article 14(2) and (10)).
  • Rules concerning the time of payment of the service fee (Articles 14(7) and 14(12)).
  • Prohibition of dual representation (Article 12(8) to (10))
  • Information obligations (Article 16(2h), (2j), (2j), (2k) and (4))
  • Rules on disclosure and publication (Article 19)
  • Compliance and competition rules (Articles 4(2), 16(2b), 3(2c) and (2d), 20 and 21).
  • The rule stipulating that payments must be made through the FIFA Clearing House (article 14, paragraph 13).

The consequence, at least until the CJEU decision, is that there is a risk that the conditions under which agents operate in football remain very unclear on a global scale, even if country-specific characteristics have to be taken into account.

In that sense, this is a good opportunity to (re)examine the advantages for professional football players of having the assistance of a sports lawyer, taking into account the framework it provides, which is a source of security for the athlete, and the benefits that this may represent for the latter.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: Regulation of the FIFA Agents in the European Union competition law.

The supervision of the sports agent lawyer by his professional association, a source of security.

In the exercise of his activity, the lawyer representing sportsmen and women is not subject to the disciplinary power of the Federation. In this sense, the deontology of the lawyer specialising in sports law is the main advantage over the sports agent (although some may consider this to be a weakness), as it subjects the lawyer to the strict and well-established regulations of his professional association, thus a source of security for the sportsman or sportswoman.

Therefore, the essence of the activity of a lawyer specialising in sports law is to defend the interests of his client, be it a club, a coach or a player. At the same time, as he assists, represents and negotiates on behalf of one of the parties involved in the contract.

At a time when it is so difficult to regulate the activities of agents worldwide, it is worth looking at the points of the FIFA reform that are under discussion, all of which are already regulated for lawyers:

  • Maximum limit for service compensation (or “fees” for lawyers): 10% of the player’s income (in France).
  • Rules governing the payment of service compensation (or “fees” for lawyers): no problem here, everything is set out in the fee agreement signed by the player, and any dispute is referred to the President of the respective professional association (in France).
  • Prohibition of dual representation: this is mandatory for lawyers, who can only represent the interests of their client.
  • Reporting obligation: lawyers are subject to strict control by their professional association over all their activities.
  • Rules on disclosure and publication: these are also clearly set out in the National Rules of Procedure for Lawyers.

Photo: pixabay.com

The advantages of being represented and assisted by a lawyer specialised in sports law:

Although the rules described in this article refer more specifically to those of the lawyer representing sportsmen and women in France, the advantages of being accompanied by a lawyer specialised in sports law, which we will describe below, can be transposed to most countries in the world.

1) Contractual negotiations :

One of the main advantages of having a lawyer as a representative is their expertise in contractual negotiations. Lawyers have in-depth legal knowledge and can ensure that the contract protects the player’s interests, including clauses relating to salaries, bonuses, image rights and other benefits.

2) Legal protection and advice:

In addition to securing advantageous contracts, a lawyer can also provide legal protection and advice in a number of areas. For example, the lawyer can advise on matters related to taxation, investments, sponsorship agreements and intellectual property. This enables the player to make informed decisions and be protected against litigation.

3) Dispute management:

In the world of sport, litigation is sometimes unavoidable. A lawyer can play a key role in managing these situations. They can help to resolve them by protecting the player’s interests, anticipating conflict situations when possible and representing him before the competent bodies when they are unavoidable, whether judicial or arbitral.

4) Image and personal brand management:

In the age of social media and constant media attention, managing an athlete’s image and personal brand has become essential. A lawyer (or agent) can work with public relations and marketing experts to ensure that a player’s image remains positive and is leveraged for sponsorship and other commercial opportunities.

YOU CAN ALSO READ: FIFA Agent returns

Conclusion

The purpose of this article is by no means to fuel the never-ending controversy between lawyers and agents, let alone to claim that one is more advantageous than the other.

It is simply to give the current situation, as well as the difficulties in applying the FIFA Regulations on agents, which leads us to recall the advantages for a professional football player, or one who aspires to be a professional, to be accompanied by a lawyer.

Personally, we believe that these are two complementary activities, so when a footballer decides to entrust his career to an agent or a lawyer, the person chosen should work with trusted partners in the areas in which he has less experience, in order to offer a comprehensive service, allowing the player to be fully advised and thus to be able to concentrate calmly on what is most important to him: playing football!

LEGAL NOTICE: This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for legal advice directed to particular circumstances. You should not take or refrain from taking any legal action based on the information contained without first seeking professional, individualized advice based on your own circumstances. The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.


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