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UK lawyer calls for football agents review

posted 31 Jan 2012, 10:14 by Mpelembe Admin

As clubs try to close their latest deals and the transfer deadline approaches, sports lawyer Adam Morallee warns FIFA over plans to axe licensed football agents.

On the closing day of the January transfer window, leading English law firm Mishcon de Reya called for a new system to replace the licencing agents system that FIFA wants to abolish.
Adam Morallee, a sports lawyer for the company which became famous for settling the divorce of the late Princess Diana and Prince Charles, said on Tuesday (January 31) that 65 percent of English clubs are concerned with the deregulation of agents.

"If you get rid of the licencing systems for agents one thing that may well occur is that it will be a free for all and people would not know who to go to or who to trust and something has to replace that," he told Reuters in an exclusive interview.

FIFA argues than only up to 30 percent of transfers are currently carried out by licensed agents and add that it would be better to replace the system with a stricter code of conduct, forbidding any payments for the transfer of minors but Morallee fears deregulation could be a void.

"I think is good and bad," he said.

"I think it is bad in the sense that if you abolish the system and don't replace it with anything there will be a big gaping hole and you need to fill it with something and it is good in a sense that it could herald a new era where you have greater transparency of what is going on."

According to FIFA, the combined total of $2.7 million was made from 10,500 transfers since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"I think one of the main issues at the moment is that big fees are being paid to agents and there is a suspicion that those funds are being channelled elsewhere and there is a lack of transparency," he said.

Morallee said the changes proposed by FIFA will in fact recognise activities carried by deal brokers like Kia Joorabchian, who is not an official agent but represents Argentinean striker Carlos Tevez and has just moved one of his other clients, manager Mark Hughes, to Queens Park Rangers.

"FIFA are seeing people like Kia Joorabchian thinking actually he is doing all the deals, he is not a licensed agent, we must update the law to bring into line with reality and allow people who are not licensed agents to do deals, but hand in hand with that you need to have safeguards," he said.

The English lawyer expressed concerns over family members who try to represent their sons, like the father of Brazilian wonderkid Neymar, saying they need to be advised by people who are experts in transfers.

"You know lots of players already have family members as agents and representatives and in the current system those people are working but are having to work with a licensed agent in order to receive monies. What the new system could do is allow those people to actually act properly as agents, take the money but one need to be transparent," he said.

French striker Nicolas Anelka became a symbol of the merry-go-round of players who are always seeking to move, playing for nine clubs costing almost £100 million pounds ($157 million) in transfer fees, but Morallee thinks this is part of the game.

"I don't think there is anything morally wrong with a footballer moving to lots of clubs. I think the fans may not like it, it may not be to a particular person's taste but there is nothing morally wrong with that, it is a business," he said.

Mishcon de Reya proposes a radical change, establishing a 'kite mark' system where agents have to meet minimum standards under a strict code of conduct and payments to third party intermediaries also have to be declared.

FIFA insists agents will still will have to register with national associations and declare any conflicts of interest. The world soccer governing body and clubs will have to disclose payments and they could also be limited.

The final goal of the world's governing body will be to establish a web-based 'clearing house' but Morallee said that the time where you can buy a player on line has not arrived yet.

"I don't think you will ever buy a football player on the click of a button. I think the formalities necessary to register the player, currently people use fax machines but yes the day will come when you email things over, a lot of people will take email scanned copies," he said.

"We have digital signatures to do the formalities. We do see a day when the formalities will be sent by email but as regards buying a player on line, the old rules remain."

Despite frantic activity on the last day of transfer window in England, figures will be much lower than in 2011 when the transfer of Andy Carroll from Newcastle and the departure of Fernando Torres from Anfield to Chelsea, generated the astonishing total of £225 million ($354 million). But Morallee did not think the current financial crisis is to blame.

"I don't think the lack of activity in this transfer window is due to the economic outlook. I think there was a spike in the last transfer window, Fernando Torres moved and Liverpool had money to spend. I think it is just a case of the big clubs thinking they will wait until the summer to buy," he said.