By Jonathan Copping, Sports Lawyer, Bolt Burdon Law Firm, London, United Kingdom
Leaked details of the fees earned and the contractual relationships of the football agent, Mino Raiola, regarding the transfer of Paul Pogba from Juventus to Manchester United in 2016, have led to an outpouring of anger over the role agent’s play in football and focus attention again on the football authorities’ inaction to tighten up the regulations.
The information released has shown how Mino Raiola, who is the agent of French midfielder, Paul Pogba, earned £41 million from his world-record transfer from Juventus to Manchester United. It transpires that Raiola was contracted to all three parties involved in the transfer – the player, the seller and the buyer! This clearly raises a major concern of conflict of interests.
According to the Danish newspaper, ‘Politiken’, Juventus paid Raiola €27 million as a contracted intermediary, i.e., to achieve the best price possible for the transfer of Pogba. At the same time, it has been reported that Raiola contracted with Manchester United to secure the signing of Pogba on “terms acceptable to the club”. According to other reports, Manchester United paid Raiola €19.4 million for his services. Included within this sum was a payment of €2.6 million in relation to negotiating Pogba’s salary, which is the service traditionally expected of agents.
FIFA introduced the Transfer Matching System (TMS) in October 2010 with a view to making the transfer of players more transparent and efficient. The TMS works by both the buying and selling club submitting details of the transfer. The details submitted by both the selling and buying clubs must match. However, it appears that the TMS system does not focus on this apparent conflict of interests taking place at the heart of football transfers.
The leak happened shortly after FIFA confirmed last week that the heads of the investigatory and adjudicatory committees were to be replaced. In response to the breaking news surrounding the Pogba transfer, FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, stated in a speech to the FIFA Congress in Bahrain as follows:
“We have to look at transfer regulations, and everything that has to do with transfers, and increase transparency there as well. To discuss it with the players and with the clubs, to see how we can make all these transactions better. In the transfer window there is $3billion circulating around the world. It’s a lot of money and we have to be transparent about these things.”
Infantino’ statement does not provide any specific details of exactly how and when FIFA proposes to tighten the regulations regarding football agents. However, it would seem that it is fairly straightforward to resolve: agents should only receive a percentage of the player’s first year’s salary as their commission.
In 2015, FIFA banned the use of third-party ownership of footballers. At that time, it was hoped that FIFA had managed to remove what appeared to be a clear conflict of interests regarding the ownership of footballers. The Pogba affair shows that conflicts still exist and, therefore, we will have to wait – with bated breath – to see whether FIFA actually acts to tighten its regulations.
Jonathan Copping can be contacted by e-mail at ‘JonathanCopping@boltburdon.co.uk’