Parliament wants sports agents to get EU licence

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In a drive to stop illegal practices involving football players' agents, the European Parliament adopted a resolution today (17 June) asking for the introduction of a European licensing system for agents.

"We want to reiterate that 30% of all football transfers are done by agents who do not have a licence. This opens the gateway to human trafficking, money laundering, fraud and corruption," said Belgian MEP Ivo Belet (European People's Party) when MEPs were debating the issue on Tuesday (15 June).

But the resolution on players' agents in sports, adopted today, also highlights a recent European Commission study which found that while "the regulations of agents established by sports federations are basically aimed at controlling access to the profession and regulating its exercise," such bodies only have "limited supervisory and sanctioning powers".

MEPs stress that sports federations lack the means to control or pursue direct action vis-à-vis sports agents, who are not registered with them, nor are they entitled to impose civil or criminal penalties.

"As football leagues have limited powers to tackle this problem and can only regulate those agents who are registered with them, a European initiative is needed," said MEP Belet.

The resolution calls for the introduction of an EU initiative to control the activities of players' agents. The Parliament also called for players' agents not to be allowed to receive mediators' fees for football transfers involving minors.

Efficient controls and enforcement of sanctions should ensure that all players' agents stick to the rules, it stressed.

Commission communication due end 2010

EU Sports Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said she was fully aware of the "political importance" of this issue, recalling the findings of a recent Commission study on the topic.

"There is no doubt that some EU action is desirable," she said, referring to sports federations lack of power to intervene in cases of serious malpractice. She also noted that the internationalisation of professional sport makes it difficult to adopt a national approach to problems of a systemic nature.

Vassiliou suggested that "the EU can play a coordinating role and help to ensure a harmonised approach to the issue of agents," for example by using the EU's new competences on the harmonisation of criminal law.

A Commission communication on future EU sports policy is due in November. Vassiliou said the paper would "certainly look at this issue in more detail".

British MEP Emma McClarkin (European Conservatives and Reformists) said that improved efforts are needed "to shine a light into the murky world of football agents".

However, she stressed that "any legislation that comes forward to regulate this sector must be from the national sporting bodies or authorities such as FIFA or UEFA. It is not the EU's place to be regulating the sporting world".

A study on sports agents in the European Union, carried out on behalf of the European Commission in 2009, provides an overview of the activities of sports agents, including an assessment of the economic and social importance of sports agents in the EU.

The study estimates that around 6,000 agents are active across Europe in more than 30 sports disciplines, generating a turnover of €200 million in the 2007/2008 season for activities related to transfers of athletes/players.

According to the study, 95% of agents are active in the four most commercialised sports - football, rugby, basketball and athletics – with football clearly dominating the profession.

The study reveals that only a limited number of member states regulate agents through a specific law, with most countries simply relying on general provisions of either labour law or contract law.

Meanwhile, some international sports federations have adopted regulations on agents for their disciplines.

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