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What are the key changes to the FA's regulations on working with intermediaries?

19 June 2019

The FA has announced some changes to the FA’s Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (“the FA Regulations”). The changes have been expected and follow a consultation process with key stakeholders such as intermediaries themselves.

These regulatory changes are separate to the reforms currently proposed by FIFA in relation to issues such as remuneration and licensing. You can find out more about those proposed changes here.

In total, there are seven key changes to the FA Regulations which every intermediary, player and club need to be aware of.

1. There is now a requirement that an intermediary shall always act in the best interests of the club and/or player for whom they act and in accordance with their fiduciary duties. This obligation should not cause too many issues as most representation contracts usually contain similar contractual obligations on the intermediary. What could cause issues though is if the FA starts imposing sanctions on intermediaries on the basis of conduct which they deem to be not in the best interests of the player or club. This could lead to a lot more regulatory disputes but also contractual disputes between intermediaries and their clients;

2. Intermediaries must now notify players orally and in writing of all offers received as soon as reasonably practicable and in any event within 24 hours of receipt of the offer. “Offer” is defined as “any offer made by a Recognised Club in relation to a Player’s remuneration under a current contract of employment, or potential contract of employment”. This should make little practical difference as most intermediaries would typically notify their players immediately of any such offers although the requirement to do so within 24 hours may be a little onerous and could also lead to more regulatory disputes;

3. Intermediaries must now obtain the written consent of the player’s parent or guardian before making any approach regarding intermediary activity to a player between the 1st January of the year of the player’s sixteenth birthday and the date of his eighteenth birthday. Approaches include electronic communications such as WhatsApp and social media. This change may seem unnecessary given that there is currently a requirement for a player’s parent/legal guardian to consent before a player can enter into a representation contract by countersigning the contract however this is an important change for all intermediaries to be aware of because approaches to players in this age bracket were previously permitted;

4. There is now a requirement for intermediaries to provide players with an annual return showing all payments (including all remuneration, fees and expenses) made by a player or by a club on behalf of the player to an intermediary during a season. This must be provided to the player within 30 days after the 30th June and the FA is also entitled to request a copy. This is to ensure that players are aware of all sums paid by them or on their behalf to intermediaries;

5. Disputes between intermediaries are rife and whilst the majority are determined by Rule K arbitration, a large number end up being settled. Now, any agreement which purports to resolve any past, existing, or future dispute regarding intermediary activity between intermediaries and intermediary organisations must be disclosed to the FA;

6. Previously, there has only been a requirement to lodge copies of representation contracts and subsequent sub-contracts and assignments with the FA. In addition, there is now a requirement for clubs to disclose agreements with intermediaries of any nature regarding the provision of services. This is a very wide ranging provision that covers agreements of any nature and not just representation contracts so it is vitally important that clubs are aware of this new obligation; and

7. It is expressly prohibited now for intermediaries, intermediary organisations and clubs to enter into any form of sponsorship agreement in order to prevent conflicts of interest. This would not prevent intermediaries and intermediary organisations purchasing hospitality packages from clubs.

Whilst these regulatory changes are not necessarily as fundamental as the impending reforms by FIFA, these new requirements are nevertheless important and so intermediaries, clubs and players must ensure that they are aware of these new obligations in order to avoid facing possible sanctions.

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