Transfer rules must respect EU competition rules as well as rules on the free movement of workers. The link between transfer rules and Internal Market provisions explains the involvement of the European Commission in the debate about transfer rules in recent years. In 2001, after engaging with the Commission in a discussion on transfer rules, FIFA modified its Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players. A study on the economic and legal aspects of transfers of players [7 MB] was completed on behalf of the Commission in early 2013. The study finds that the transfer systems adopted by team sport organisations, notably in football, play a role in ensuring fair competitions; however, the study recommends sports governing bodies and other sport stakeholders to take action to remedy some of the shortcomings of transfers, namely inflated fees and a growing imbalance between competing clubs.
Sports agents act mainly as intermediaries between professional sportspeople and sports clubs/organisers of sport events. The development of a pan-European market for players following the Bosman ruling of the European Court of Justice (C-415/93) and the subsequent rise in the level of players’ salaries in some sports have resulted in an increase in the activities of sports agents. They bring together the parties that are interested in concluding an agreement concerning the practice of a sport as a remunerated activity. In addition, sports agents may engage in a broad range of activities including the conclusion of different kinds of contracts on behalf of athletes (image rights contracts, sponsoring contracts, advertising contracts).
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 was carried out on behalf of the Commission in 2009 to analyse the current situation regarding sports agents in the European Union. The main problems identified are of an ethical nature, such as financial crime and exploitation of young players, thus threatening the fairness of sporting competitions and the integrity of sportspeople. The study also identifies discrepancies in the way the activity of agents is regulated by public authorities and private bodies in Europe.
In November 2011 the European Commission organised an EU conference on sports agents. The conference focused on the evaluation of the current situation concerning the activities of sports agents in the main team sports in Europe. In line with the Commission's function as a facilitator and a partner for dialogue with the sport movement, the conference offered a platform to all key stakeholders to exchange views and best practices in place at national and international levels across sports.
The issue of standardisation of the profession was identified at the conference as an innovative way forward which could provide not just a useful platform for further consultation but also an opportunity to develop and test quality requirements in the field of sports agents. Discussions are on-going between football stakeholders and European and international standardisation bodies in this respect.