LONDON (AP) — The super agents of soccer have pressing priorities beyond trading players in the January transfer window: Protecting their ability to enjoy unrestricted cuts of deals.
Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola and Jonathan Barnett, who have earned tens of millions of dollars from player transfers, were among agents who gathered in London on Wednesday to formulate the fight against FIFA's plans to curb their commissions.
FIFA wants to limit the excesses of an industry that allowed Raiola to earn 27 million euros ($30 million) from Juventus from the 105 million euro deal that took Paul Pogba back to Manchester United 2016.
In a move that would keep cash from seeping out of the game, FIFA has agreed in principle to cap agent earnings at a maximum 10% of transfer fees when acting for the selling club. Agents could also be prevented from taking more than 3% of a player's salary, or 6% when they are also acting for the buying club. Agents would be prohibited from representing both the buying and selling clubs in a transfer.
The plans threaten the fortunes of agents, whose commissions have quadrupled since 2015 to $653.9 million last year, according to FIFA.
The Association of Football Agents, who met in private on Wednesday, is calling for more openness and consultation from FIFA.
But the Gianni Infantino-led global governing body is ready to fight agents in court to defend the restrictions endorsed by FIFA's stakeholders committee and ruling council last year.
“Those who are behaving properly shouldn't be afraid of these potential regulations,” FIFA's chief legal officer Emilio García told The Associated Press by telephone as the agents met. “Of course agents are needed. Agents should be paid but we need to impose some commons sense in the current transfer market.”
While agent pay is being capped, FIFA has no desire to restrict what players can earn.
“The cap on commissions is to avoid excessive and abusive practices that we have seen in the past,” Garcia said, without singling out any agents or their deals.
Agents like Barnett complain they weren't around the table with FIFA formulating the new agent regulations. García contends that two meetings with Barnett were held in 2018 while maintaining that this group of agents aren't the only ones FIFA is talking to.
“We are looking at the global market — there are a lot of small agents doing a different thing from Mr. Barnett and this group," García said. "It's not just one group of super agents that wanted to be consulted. We need to speak to agents in Europe, south america and all over the world
“We are a global organization. They are more than welcome. They need to understand they are not the only ones.”
But the Association of Football Agents does believe it has an elevated status to make FIFA listen and start again.
“We aren't going to have them unilaterally dictate what they want to happen," AFA President Mel Stein said. “We want to have a consultative process with a clean sheet of paper in front of us without anyone taking a position beforehand and saying nothing is negotiable.”
The agents didn't just have the FIFA changes on their mind at the London meeting. They also used it as a public platform to engage in transfer talk with the Jan. 31 European trading cut-off looming.
Entering the meeting in north London, there was Gareth Bale's agent, Barnett, saying the forward won't be forced out of Real Madrid before his contract expires in 2022. Pogba's agent, Raiola, grumbled in front of cameras about the injured French midfielder's ambitions not being met by Manchester United. And Mendes talked up a transfer for United target Bruno Fernandes, who remains at Lisbon club Sporting.
Completing any deals this year could be crucial for the agents as FIFA is determined to ensure the limitations on their earnings take effect from 2021.
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