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FIFA wins at CAS in latest ruling of lengthy, multi-nation legal battle with soccer player agents

GENEVA: FIFA won the latest ruling Monday of an international, multi-case fight by soccer player agents to block rules that would regulate their industry and cap their fees.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said it “dismissed in their entirety” arguments put forth by the Zurich-based Professional Football Agents Association (PROFAA), which brought the case.

FIFA said the ruling “fully confirms the legality, validity and proportionality of the FIFA Football Agent Regulations.”

However, it was unclear how the Swiss-based sports court’s verdict will weigh on national-level cases in process brought by agents in different countries, including Switzerland, plus a complaint filed with the European Commission in Brussels.

FIFA approved the agent rules last year that are due to take effect on Oct. 1 after thousands of agents worldwide have had the chance to take a $600 examination in either April or September organized by national soccer federations.

The most controversial aspect of the rules limit an agent’s earnings at 10 percent of a transfer fee when they act for the selling club.

Elite agencies have earned tens of millions of dollars from transfers for players like Erling Haaland and Paul Pogba, and FIFA has said agents earned $622 million from international cross-border transfer deals in 2022.

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

FIFA also wants to prohibit player agents from representing both the buying and selling clubs in a transfer.

PROFAA said it was “extremely disappointed” by the CAS ruling and the effect it would have on thousands of agents’ livelihood.

The group “will continue to support any and all litigation against these regulations, specifically the introduction of a commission cap,” its president Paddy Dominguez said in a statement. Dominguez is a member of a FIFA-appointed working group announced in February to consult with the agent industry.

That FIFA group does not include some of the industry’s highest profile agencies which have said over several years they were not properly consulted about shaping the rules.

FIFA also wants agent fees to be paid through the soccer body’s Paris-based financial clearing house, which aims to bring more transparency to a global transfer market that has traditionally been murky.

In the CAS hearing, the agent group’s argument about privacy and data protection was among those dismissed in a series of “interim conclusions.”

FIFA also persuaded the CAS judges that the rules do not contravene European Union laws on competition and free movement and that it was not a cartel under Swiss competition law. The court also agreed the FIFA rules are not incompatible with laws in France and Italy and nor do they contravene the Major League Soccer collective bargaining agreement.

“The award confirms FIFA’s position that the (agent rules) are a reasonable and proportionate regulatory measure that help to resolve systemic failures in the player transfer system,” soccer’s governing body said in a statement.

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