FIFA loses key ruling in England for plans to curb soccer player agents fees

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FIFA lost a key ruling in London on Thursday against its plans to regulate soccer player agents and cap the fees and commissions they earn.

A group of agents and firms representing players challenged the proposed FIFA rules at an arbitration tribunal hearing in September.

FIFA confirmed the tribunal had ruled in favor of the agents, leaving the future of the project in doubt.

In a statement, The Football Forum group of agents congratulated its president Jonathan Barnett — a long-time leading agent whose clients include Gareth Bale — for his role in “this success of paramount importance for all agents.”

The English case was among several national challenges brought across Europe to rules that FIFA wanted to enforce on Oct. 1. FIFA had won a ruling in July at the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.

FIFA wanted more control and to curb the wilder excesses in an industry it said earned more than $600 million from international transfer deals in 2022.

Elite agencies have earned tens of millions of dollars from transfers for top players in deals typically involving English clubs, such as Erling Haaland’s 2022 move to Manchester City from Borussia Dortmund.

Agents countered that most of the industry operated at the other end of the financial market in other countries.

FIFA proposed to cap agent earnings at a maximum 10% of transfer fees when they acted for the selling club.

Agents would also have been limited to taking 3% of a player’s salary when those earnings are more than $200,000 per year, or 5% when the player earns up to $200,000. Those limits would be 6% and 10%, respectively, when the agent acted for both the player and the club signing them.

FIFA also would have prohibited player agents representing both the buying and selling clubs in a transfer.

Fees also would have been paid through FIFA’s Paris-based financial clearing house, which aimed to bring more transparency — and potential risks to confidentiality, agents argued — to a global transfer market that historically has had murky elements.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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