29-06-06

New Regulations for Sports Agents Q: When is a Lawyer not a Lawyer? A: When he's an Agent Whilst it is unlikely that there will ever be a Flag Day for Football Agents, just as in every profession there are good ones and bad ones. However, it cannot be any coincidence that the formation of The Association of Football Agents and the introduction by the Football Association of its new Agents Regulations have followed close on each others' heels. The Regulations, which in their existing state came into force on January 1st this year are intended to put in place greater controls over an industry which has already come under far more searching public scrutiny than most. Parts of them are laudable and much needed. By way of example they have set out to ban the offering of inducements by agents to players or their families to persuade them to enter into representation contracts, so no more sports cars for Little Johnny's dad to encourage him to get his son to sign for a particularly aggressive agency. However, it is not such good news for sports lawyers. Some ten years ago I worked very closely with The Law Society. As things stand under the January Regulations solicitors are still " Exempt Individuals " but not, it would appear, for very much longer if the FA have their way with them. The thin end of the wedge is contained in Article 14.28 of the new current Regulations which makes "Exempt Individuals" (which includes lawyers) as well as licensed agents subject to the general rules of the FA and subject to the Code of Professional Conduct relating to agents. This would appear to be a subtle way to seek to oust or over-ride the jurisdiction of The Law Society over solicitors and The Bar Council over barristers. The thin end of the wedge becomes somewhat thicker in the proposed amendments to the Regulations which the FA hopes to introduce prior to the start of the next Football Season. What the FA are now seeking to introduce in their latest proposals is the concept of a "Registered Agent "which will not only include licensed agents but also "Exempt Individuals". That obviously will include lawyers. This is, in my view and that of my peers, a clear restraint of trade as far as solicitors and barristers are concerned a view with which the Law Society now seems to concur. Article 9.3 of the revised version states that until receipt of written notification of registration the putative " Registered Agent " shall not be entitled to act for any "participant". So, it appears the FA is looking to prevent a lawyer acting for a client unless he is registered with them. Apparently, years of experience and a practicing certificate issued by our Governing Body are no longer sufficient to permit us to represent our clients. New Regulations in any industry are always a challenge and fertile territory for the lawyers. Here, where the rights of the lawyers themselves are under threat it surely will not come as any great surprise to the Football Association if they find themselves challenged in the courts and the queue of volunteers to fight the case is likely to stretch half-way down the Strand.
Article by Mel Stein