Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Australians draw Asian attention to Players' Agents

Paralleling concerns in England and Europe, the Professional Footballers Association, which represents contracted footballers in men's, women's and youth competitions in Australia, regards the FIFA standards for Licensed Player's Agents as a minimum accreditation and has submitted proposals to Football Federation Australia to encourage further reform. "There are some major areas of concern, including a lack of confidence among players with their agent, which is in contrast to the unanimous support among players for the PFA," PFA executive director Brendan Schwab told Asian Football Business Review. "The PFA is committed to ensuring players are able to access agency services which comply (at a minimum) with FIFA’s standards and, preferably, with the standards expected for lawyers, accountants and other professionals who owe a fiduciary duty to their clients."

The PFA submission covered seven issues (pdf): improving the quality of agents and the quality of representation; the regulatory framework; relationship between unlicensed agents and holders of FIFA License; activities of agents: conflicts of interests & inducements; auditing & accountability; dealing with minors; and agents’ fees. it proposed that Licensed Agents should undergo continual professional development; increasing the investigative powers of FFA, the Asian Football Confederation or FIFA; banning clubs from transfer activity; revisit exemptions from the licence requirements (parents, siblings, spouses and lawyers); and including in the standard representation agreements an express obligation to keep clients’ information confidential.

The PFA is hosting an informal discussion with Licensed Players' Agents and players' commercial managers on Friday (12 January) in Melbourne, Australia, to discuss key issues affecting professional footballers and football. However the term "commercial agents" caused an initial misunderstanding between the PFA and the Asian Licenced Players' Agents Association.

"It goes without saying that the PFA advises players only to deal with agents who are permitted to act under FIFA Regulations in the negotiation of playing contracts and transfers. Those permitted in these circumstances are licensed agents, close relatives of the player concerned and lawyers. Indeed, the integrity and professionalism of the PFA in terms of our advice to members in this respect has never been questioned," Schwab later explained. "There are, however, many other important aspects of a player’s career where there is a role for professional advisers and managers. These areas include financial and taxation advice and the procurement of marketing, sponsorship and commercial opportunities for players. Such commercial managers need not be licensed, but still have a vital role to play.

"One of the exciting aspects of the recent reform of Australian football has been the opening up of increasing commercial opportunities for players. As a result, some of the best talent managers in Australia now advise our leading members, including those who play for the Socceroos. It is important the PFA continues to consult with these managers on relevant issues, as we have a duty to ensure our members have every opportunity to develop professionally, both on and off the field," he said.

"I am happy that Brendan has clarified the PFA's position. He understands how important and sensitive the issue of unlicensed agents is to many licensed agents around the world," ALPAA chairman, Chris Tanner told Asian Football Business Review. "We recognise there are legitimate people and organisations out there that do a great job in areas of sponsorship and endorsements for example. However there are also dodgy characters, calling themselves commercial managers, and acting as pseudo player agents. Many of these guys are encouraging clubs and players to breach FIFA regulations. The only way we stop these pirates is to take a tough stand and regulate.

"We intend to work with the AFC, the national associations, the clubs and the players' groups and assist in wiping these scum out of the game. Every time a club is fined or a player is suspended, the message is reinforced. These people have NO PLACE in negotiating player contracts."

ASIAN PLANS:

The ALPAA, developed from an Australian organisation formed in 2003, is now associating FIFA-licensed Players' Agents in Asia and has negotiated Indemnity Insurance rates for agents that reflect the local not European football industry. The PLA advised Asian Football Business Review that it has been asked by FIFPro, the world footballers’ association, to assist with the establishment of players’ associations throughout Asia.

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