Cricket South Africa (CSA), in collaboration with the South African Cricketers’ Association, are on the verge of implementing regulations governing the registration and conduct of cricket agents. On 1 April 2015 the international football federation, FIFA, will implement new regulations for agents (or “intermediaries”, as they will from now be known). It is therefore interesting to compare the different regulations.
FIFA has for decades been at the forefront of regulating agents. In 1991 it started to get really tough with agents, introducing the system of licensed players’ agents. In 2009 FIFA announced that an in-depth reform of the system was necessary in order to address several shortcomings. Five years and an extensive consultation process later, a revised dispensation was ratified.
The key FIFA changes and how they compare with the proposed cricket agents’ regulations are as follows:
- Those engaged in providing services to a player will be termed “intermediaries”. At first glance this might look like mere semantics but when one considers that the word “agent” conjures up images somewhere between politicians and accountants in terms of popularity, it is a good move. For cricket though, the word “manager” would be better. (Because of the prominence of the manager in a football team context, one can understand why it cannot be used in football parlance for two totally different jobs.)
- FIFA has finally recognised that a player is more often than not represented by a corporate body (a team of agents) and not just one individual. An intermediary may therefore be both a legal or natural person. This kills two birds with one stone: It dispenses with the silly premise that an individual can more easily be held accountable than a legal person, and corporate bodies (such as player agencies) will fall under the scope of the new regulations. Cricket agents and agencies work no differently. CSA’s regulations should follow suit.
- From 1 April 2015 a football player will be absolutely free to choose whoever he deems fit and proper to represent him. The chosen intermediary must simply meet a set of minimum criteria (inter alia having an “impeccable reputation” and having no “potential conflicts of interest”). There is no examination requirement. The chosen intermediary does not have to have any experience or knowledge of the game’s rules and regulations. FIFA is somewhat vague as to its reasons for this change but it would appear to be an attempt to be more accommodating towards the “family member agent” (usually the player’s father). It is highly debatable whether this is a good change. Family member agents are the worst agents imaginable because of their almost unavoidable lack of objectivity. CSA’s proposed regulations are currently aligned with the old FIFA regulations. It should be kept that way.
- Finally FIFA has determined that where an intermediary has negotiated a new employment contract for a player, the total amount of commission payable by the player to the intermediary should not exceed 3% of the gross value the employment contract. This is a distortion of competition and serious abuse of FIFA’s dominant position vis-à-vis the intermediaries. FIFA has no doubt checked its legal position in this regard, but there can be equally no doubt that intermediaries across the world will take them on for implementing an anti-competitive agreement to price-fix or impose unfairly low pricing on the open market. Fortunately cricket has put no similar ceiling on the agents’ commission. In any way, an exorbitant commission is easy to police. The player’s team will know how much it paid the agent, and hence what the commission percentage was. If the team believes it was outrageous, it simply reports it to the national body who can then investigate further. CSA is right by not prescribing commission percentages in its proposed regulations.
But as always the proof of the pudding is in the eating. It would therefore be interesting to do this comparison again two years from now when football has had a reasonable period to implement the new regulations…