Top Premier League clubs lobbying FA to make it easier to sign young teenage prospects

The FA’s current intermediary regulations state that a young player cannot sign with an agent until the year of his 16th birthday - England's top clubs want this to change

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Premier League clubs are pushing to make it easier to sign 14- and 15-year-old players. The move, which has led to the creation of a Premier League working group, would seek to overhaul the Football Association’s existing intermediary regulations, allowing players to formally sign with agents long before their 16th birthday. The clubs hope that such a change would make it easier for them to sign top young talents.

The FA’s current intermediary regulations state that a young player cannot sign with an agent until the year of his 16th birthday. In practice, many 14- and 15-year-old players do work with agents, some of whom will pay their families off-the-books cash inducements.

This murky reality is why the Premier League’s leading clubs want clearer rules, to bring the market in teenage players within FA regulations. Buying and selling 14- and 15-year-old players is a fact of modern football. Clubs who spend so much of their time and money on it want to make sure that they are operating within a clear clean legal and regulatory framework.

This is why a working group has been set up, involving the teams, including Manchester City, who want to see the system changed. They will then take their proposals to the FA, hoping to see a change in the current regulations.

Ever since Fifa deregulated the agency profession in 2015, the market in Britain, especially for young players, is routinely described as a “Wild West”. The old agents’ exam has gone and now it only takes a £500 registration fee and a ‘test of good character’ on the FA website to become a registered intermediary. This has flooded the marketplace with people who would have been unlikely to pass the old qualification exam.

Some Premier League clubs are now hoping that the FA will re-introduce a form of regulation, by imposing a course and a test for agents who want to work with under-16 players. This would effectively mean a two-tier system, where there would be a select group of agents and agencies who had the right to represent 14- and 15-year-old players. Clubs believe that such a system would give them greater control and clarity in the high-demand market for young players.

There is some scepticism in the agency world about whether a two-tier system would work, and whether it would effectively re-introduce licencing via the back door. It was only 18 months ago that the player agency market was de-regulated and would be difficult to re-impose a degree of regulation on one sector of the market now.

That is just one of the issues that the Premier League clubs will discuss in their attempts to change this matter of FA policy.  They are also keen to discuss appropriate salaries for under-18 players, and whether that money could be paid into trust funds, as well as the issue of loans for under-18 players.