'Keep rogue agents out the game'

EXCLUSIVE: The Australian Football Agents Association (AFAA) have called on FIFA not to dilute the current licensed agents system which they say provide players and clubs with assurances of professional services.

The AFAA is affiliated to the European Football Agents Association (EFAA) and, as such, are party to the on-going discussions within FIFA regarding the future of the regulatory system of agents.
An AFAA spokesperson told au.fourfourtwo.com that the current system of licensed agents is potentially under threat at the next FIFA congress in June 2014. 
“The brazen and unrestrained activity of unlicensed player agents has become so rife that the FFA were forced to send a circular to all A-Leagues reminding them of their obligations to deal only with licensed agents or other exempt individuals (e.g. registered legal practitioners),” said the spokesperson.
“AFAA members are proud of their licensed status, and worked hard to attain it. Not only does their licence prove their knowledge of the international and domestic regulations that exist within football, their compulsory professional indemnity insurance provides a valuable comfort to those clients engaging their services.
“No such assurances are offered by the unlicensed ‘agents’ who tout their services.”
AFAA say expected changes to the licensed agents system could be ratified by FIFA at their June 2014 Congress.
If so, this is expected to dilute the current system, removing the licensing requirement and instead put the onus on the players and clubs to comply with their own rules.
“In a period in football’s history which has seen unprecedented amounts of money enter the game since the mid-90s, which require an ever-increasing amount of scrutiny to ensure its legality, FIFA has disregarded a system which many view as perfectly fine in favour of an open slather approach,” said the spokesperson.
“As FIFA edge ever closer to a system of registered intermediaries, rather than licensed agents, the role of domestic associations such as AFAA becomes ever more significant as the reality of self-regulations comes ever closer.
“Domestically, AFAA would much prefer the simple approach of FFA actually employing a person or persons, as per Ken Wood in the AFL who does sterling work as he heads up their investigation unit.
“Simply policing and enforcing the current rules would end the issue in Australia, as far as AFAA is concerned. After all, there are only 10 professional teams in the country, how hard can it be?”
AFAA also rejected claims of shonky dealings, saying they continue to play an important role in the  football landscape.
“As with all industries, there are good and bad operators. Nobody says the medical profession is shonky if one rogue GP is struck off, so why should our industry be any different?
“We are often a soft target for ill-informed media commentators and even clubs who wring their hands in dismay at what some see as the increasing commercialisation of the game, with particular regard to growing salary demands.
“It is worth noting that since the inception of the A-League, it is estimated that AFAA's members have generated approximately $12m in revenue to A-League clubs (and in turn, the FFA who take a share of such fees).
“Our members have also invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in bringing international teams such as LA Galaxy and Manchester United to Australia, generating huge interest in the game amongst the wider public,” added the spokesperson.
“Who introduced the likes of Harry Kewell, Dwight Yorke, Juninho, Alessandro Del Piero, Marcos Flores, Eugene Dadi, Besart Berisha, Sergio van Dijk and Thomas Broich to these shores? Agents, of course.”
The AFAA was formed in 2011 as an Incorporated Association with a mission statement to introduce and maintain a high standard of professionalism, clarity and regulatory control in the profession of players’ agents within the football family.
And at a time when our lack of genuine international class overseas based Socceroos’ is bemoaned, it’s worth noting the key role that agents play in helping players take the next step in their careers, say the AFAA.
“If AFAA’s members are not actively marketing and promoting the best crop of Australian players to overseas markets where they can learn and test themselves in the best environment, then who is?
“Certainly not the A-League clubs, and why should they? They don’t want to lose their best players.
"For money? Not really - despite widely held uninformed opinion that European football is a bottomless pit of transfer fees that they are willing to shell out at the drop of a hat, the reality is that outside the very elite clubs in the world, the global football market is still very bleak.
“And it’s not the PFA either, who do a solid job protecting players interests, but lack the remit, contacts and resources to go further. AFAA is very concerned indeed with the welfare of players. The idea that unscrupulous agents mercilessly treat their clients is ridiculous in Australia.
“The market here is small, and our members cannot afford to act in any way which would prejudice their reputation in what is still essentially a quit insular market.
“If our clients are happy and well cared for, this can only have a positive impact on their on-field performances. Without delivering on the park, agents cannot do much. Our ‘product’ is our clients, and even the best-connected agent cannot sell a player who is not delivering on the pitch.”
AFAA support schemes implemented by the PFA which assist with post-career development. And they believe AFAA members play a key role in helping to advise clubs on complex legal and financial regulations in the game both locally and overseas.
The identification of young Australian players is another benefit.
“With limited budgets and staff resources, the scouting networks of A-league clubs, especially outside their own states, can be very limited. Internationally, it can be close to non-existent in many cases.”
Added the spokesperson: “We don’t expect a thank you. We don’t even want one. All we want is the respect that our members deserve, and to be heard at the level that our input deserves.”