Agents’ fees remained stable in 2021 despite transfer spending having dropped in each of the last two years, a new FIFA report has found.
More than half a billion US dollars has been spent on fees to intermediaries in 2021 to date, an increase of 0.7 per cent compared to 2020, with clubs from England spending just over £100m on agents in international deals – the most of any country.
The increase in agents’ fees comes despite spending on international transfers dropping by 13.9 per cent in 2021 compared to 2020, and by 23.4 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019 as clubs tightened their belts amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The amount going to agents has dropped significantly though compared to 2019, when FIFA found 653.9 million US dollars (over £500m at the time) was paid.
Most controversially, caps on agents’ fees remain in place but now cover all service fees rather than just commission. The caps are three per cent of a player’s total contracted salary when an agent is representing a player, three per cent of that salary when an agent is representing the buyer and six per cent of that salary when an agent is representing a player and a buyer.
An agent representing a selling club can earn a maximum of 10 per cent of the transfer fee. The payments to agents would be issued via the new FIFA Clearing House.
Triple representation – where an agent represents a player, buyer and seller, is outlawed in the new regulations, and so too is dual representation except where the agent represents the player and the buying club.
The proposed regulations have been criticised by some of the world’s most high-profile agents, like Mino Raiola and Jonathan Barnett, with the latter warning FIFA could face legal action and saying there had been insufficient consultation.
“It is difficult to say we don’t talk to agents when they won’t talk with us. Two or three organisations are part of the process. Others prefer to be excluded and don’t want to interact.”
FIFA says its intention in publishing the fees paid to agents is not to make supporters or anyone else angry at the money flowing out of the game, but to provide transparency.
It believes the new regulations are necessary to prevent excessive and abusive practices. Garcia Silvero gave the example of an ex-player he had recently spoken to, who moved to South America from Europe, who said his agent had earned more than he had over his two-year contract.
FIFA director football regulatory James Kitching cited another example of a player moving from France to Germany in 2018 where the agent’s fees amounted to 111.8 per cent of the player’s salary across the full length of their contract.
In more than 90 per cent of cases, the report found club intermediaries received less than one million US dollars in service fees per transaction, with 10,000 to 100,000 US dollars being the most common amount received.
Garcia Silvero says FIFA is keen to make as much information related to transfers public as possible, but will be limited by data protection laws.
He also said he hoped the new system would address the “imbalance” between agents’ fees and training and compensation payments to clubs. While the former is over half a billion dollars, Garcia Silvero put the second figure at between 50 and 60 million dollars.
“It makes us feel uncomfortable. We cannot accept this imbalance,” he said. “That is one of the key things we would like to change with the agents legislation.”