The development of a pan-European market for players following the Bosman ruling and the consequent rise in the level of players’ salaries in some sports have resulted in an increase in the activities of sports agents. Sports agents act mainly as intermediaries between professional sportspeople and sports clubs/organisers of sports events. They bring together the parties interested in concluding an agreement concerning the practice of a sport as a remunerated activity. Finding a job placement for a sportsperson is therefore the central and specific role of sports agents.
Sports agents may, however, engage in a broader range of activities, including the conclusion of different kinds of contracts on behalf of the sportsperson (image rights contracts, sponsoring contracts, advertising contracts, etc.). The profession of sports agent is inherent to the existing system for the employment and transfer of sportspersons, particularly in the case of team sports.
The activities of sports agents have been a matter of debate for many years, including at EU level. In particular, there have been reports of bad practices in the activities of some agents which have resulted in instances of corruption, money laundering and exploitation or trafficking of underage players. These practices are damaging for sport in general and raise serious governance questions.
An independent study [3 MB] was carried out on behalf of the Commission in 2009 to analyse the current situation regarding sports agents in the European Union. The first part of the study provides an overview of the activities of sports agents, including an assessment of the economic and social importance of sports agents in the EU. Interesting figures are presented, giving for the first time a comprehensive view of the role of agents in the sport sector. For example, 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 transfer of athletes/players.
According to the findings of the study, the UK, Italy, Spain, France and Germany represent around 75% of the total number of agents in the EU. Football is the only sport where agents are active in all EU Member States. Agents are active in more than 10 disciplines in Germany, France, Spain, UK, Italy and Sweden. The presence of agents is stronger in the most commercialised sports: football, rugby, basketball and athletics gather almost the totality (95%) of agents in Europe.
The second part of the study presents the legal framework applying to the activity of sports agents, including regulations adopted by private entities (such as sports federations) at national and international level as well as regulations and laws adopted by public authorities. Five EU countries (Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary and Portugal) as well as four international federations (FIFA – football, FIBA – basketball, IAAF – athletics and IRB – rugby) have adopted specific laws and regulations applying to agents' activities. This part of the study also presents the different problems raised by the activity of sports agents (including financial crime, trafficking of sportspeople and protection of minors).
The third part of the study examines the relationship between the activity of sports agents and the EU regulatory framework, in particular with regard to Internal Market and competition law. The fourth part of the study provides a synthesis of the findings and presents a series of recommendations addressed to sport stakeholders, Member States and EU institutions.
The study provides a good overview of the activities and of the issues raised by sports agents. The Commission intends to carefully analyse the results of the study in order to assess whether action at EU level is needed with a view to addressing the abovementioned issues. In particular, the analysis of the Commission should be focused on examining which type of action is best suited to tackle the problems identified in relation to agents' activities, while taking into account the general context surrounding such activities. In carrying out its analysis, the Commission intends to give consideration to the new legal framework provided by the entry into force of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and to the instruments that the Treaty offers in the area of sport.