A confidential report commissioned by Uefa on the transfer market found that money laundering was widespread and that “dominant agents” were taking advantage of the lack of enforcement of rules prohibiting third-party ownership.
A summary of the 2018 The report was never made public but seen by The Guardian indicating that it made eight recommendations to help rectify systemic problems. Neither has been adopted by FIFA more than two years later, although it is close to introducing one and will vote for others next year.
Among the key findings of the report, compiled by the Center for Sports Studies (Cies), is that third-party ownership of the economic rights of players (TPO), banned by FIFA in 2015, “remains a well-established reality. ”.
“Agents and intermediaries are often at the center of these types of agreements, which in many cases explain the significant commissions they can get from clubs,” he says. “Dominant agents and intermediaries have solid control over the career of a greater number of players, particularly through third-party ownership agreements, which puts them at an advantage in the existing power game with the clubs.
“Fierce competition between teams within a highly unregulated context without effective application of the few existing rules (ie TPO ban) creates a climate of suspicion in which clubs fear losing competitiveness by acting legally and / or ethics. The lack of transparency in transfer operations in general, and in the representation market in particular, puts clubs at a disadvantage compared to agents and intermediaries who have easier access to the most relevant information ”.
A co-author of the report, Raffaele Poli, told The Guardian that Cies presented its findings to Uefa and that the governing body decided not to make them public.
In the study, Cies affirms that the opaque nature of the transfer market provides an ideal environment for the embezzlement of money by officials and the operation of organized crime. It says that the lack of transparency in the payment of agents’ commissions allows money laundering along with tax evasion schemes. Payments are often made to tax havens, not only for the purpose of enriching agents, but also “the owners and executives of the clubs they collaborate with,” the report concludes.
The summary paints a picture of a system plagued with illegality and controlled by a group of agents, who are not disturbed by the global and regional governing bodies, who are unwilling or unable to stop their behavior.
“There is a bit of a dirty mentality in football with a lot of people trying to find ways to get rich and take advantage of all this money that is circulating, especially through transfers,” Poli told The Guardian.
The report, titled Market of intermediation and transfers in soccer; Current situation, empirical work and corrective measures: finds that the undue influence of “well established” agents and the complicity of the clubs had a detrimental effect on the fair representation of the players. The common practice of clubs hiring and paying agents to act as intermediaries leads to a “lack of loyalty” towards the player, while creating an elite class of representatives. The document argues that this has led clubs to prefer to deal with larger agents, more willing to act on their behalf. This, the report states, is “to the detriment of agents with greater professional awareness.”
The only recommendation in the report that is close to being realized is the creation of a clearing house system by FIFA. The principle was agreed by the world soccer governing body in October 2018 and does not appear to have been a response to the report.
The report recommended a clearinghouse through which all payments to agents should be made. FIFA’s clearinghouse is, at least initially, only for transfer payments associated with training compensation for a young player’s former club. Have said he intends to include agent payments in the future.
The Cies study also recommends that agents “be paid by their actual customers” rather than by clubs. Other recommendations include that agent commissions be capped and tied to the player’s salary, replacing the practice of commissions being paid as a proportion of the transfer fee, and FIFA plans to act on agent commissions next year. .
The authors’ remaining suggestions are that individuals with criminal records be prohibited from registering as intermediaries; an investigative body is established to examine disputes and verify the flow of money in transfers; that a robust sanctions system be introduced; and an education program is established. Some of these will also be considered by the FIFA Council next year.
Uefa said it had commissioned the study before the formation of the FIFA Transfer System Working Group in 2018. “One result of the Working Group has been a new regulatory framework for agents that is still being worked on.” , said. “As standard practice, Uefa frequently commissions studies on a wide range of topics to help share its inner thinking. These studies are not made available to the public. “
FIFA said: “The need for a stricter regulatory framework arose in response to a number of worrying trends that have affected the transfer market in recent years. In particular, FIFA has observed a growing number of abusive and excessive practices, widespread conflicts of interest and a market driven by speculation rather than solidarity and redistribution in the football pyramid. The regulations introduce basic standards of service in the relationship between a football agent and his client, and reinforce the duty of loyalty that exists in all types of agent-client relationships ”.
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