Agents slam Fifa plans to cap their transfer cut

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The Independent Online

New Fifa reforms to crack down on the amount of money that goes to agents in an attempt to make international transfers more transparent have been denounced as unfair and unworkable.

The world governing body believe only 25 to 30 per cent of international deals are carried out by licensed agents even if many run into millions of pounds, and so there is a need to cap their fees.

Marco Villiger, Fifa's head of legal affairs, recently admitted the organisation had lost control of who could act as agents and that Fifa were considering tightening the rules so all agents would still have to register with national associations but have a ceiling placed on their earnings.

"It is in the pockets of people who do not invest in football," said Villiger. "[A] fair [amount] could perhaps be two to three per cent [of the transfer fee] or a cap of $2 million [£1.3m]. We could make agents less important. The money paid today could stay in the sport."

But the plans have caused outrage among many agents, who currently earn around five per cent per deal on average. "Two to three per cent is unrealistic, impractical and bluntly unfair," said Athole Still, who has acted for 15 years as a broker for player agents and represents 16 managers himself. "It would make the agents' business virtually not worth doing.

"It's a nonsense to think every time there is a transfer, outrageous sums are paid in agents' fees. Fifa have already said that five per cent is an accepted norm. How many transfers pay agents more than $2m? The figure is infinitesimal. You would not be affecting 95 per cent of transfers. It really annoys me when Fifa talk about money going out of the game. I find that really insulting. In 28 years in football, I have never taken what I would consider an excessive fee."

Since the 2010 World Cup, some 10,500 international transfers have taken place at a combined value of $2.7bn (£1.7bn). Fifa believe new regulations would not conflict with European law and have scheduled a meeting with the European Commission within the next two months. But Still says Fifa have little chance of getting the rules through the EC; other agents, such as Rachel Anderson who represents several European clubs, agrees with him. "I doubt whether they can legally cap because it's restraint of trade," she said. "Each deal is up to the two parties involved and each deal is different."

Although in every transfer, Fifa demands that the paperwork includes the name of the agents, they admit the system has broken down. "At the moment, it seems anyone can register as an agent, whether a family member or a lawyer," said a Fifa spokesman. "That's why we are developing a new procedure, not controlling the people any more but the money going to them. We need to have a more open, transparent system."

Willie McKay, the agent who was instrumental in Joey Barton signing for Queens Park Rangers, said: "Phone up all the agents and ask how many are making a profit. I'd say the answer would be 10 per cent. It's the toughest game in the world. If a club doesn't want to pay an agent's fee, why do they do it?"

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