The bill essentially sought to subject sports agents to obtaining a mandatory permit issued by the (federal) Minister for the Middle Classes, following advice from the National Joint Committee for Sports, and to imposing a level of professional competency (which would then be regulated further by Royal Decree).
In its recent advice of 19 January 2019, the Council of State delivered a negative opinion on this bill. The reason for doing so was rather simple: according to the Council of State, the federal legislator is not competent to regulate this matter as the three regions are solely competent. The Council of State stressed that the regions are competent to legislate job placement, including job placement in the professional sports area. There is no competency reserved for the federal legislator, who therefore is not competent to regulate the matter. As the Council of State’s united chambers delivered this advice, it has wide support.
With the federal legislator clearly ruled ‘offside’, the regions now have the initiative to act. While job placement in the sports sector is already being dealt with at the regional level, a number of reforms have been announced in the wake of ‘football gate’ - the scandal which has been rocking the Belgian football world since October 2018 - mainly at the Flemish level. One can only hope that, this time around, the regions will opt for a more harmonised approach when regulating the sports agent profession. Unified legislation on European level would be even more recommended, but seems even more of a stretch.
The Council of State’s advice will also have an impact on the recommendations of the expert panel appointed last autumn by the Belgian Pro League. One of the key recommendations was to ask the federal legislator to establish a professional institution for sports agents. Based on the Council of State’s advice, this route now seems highly unlikely.
The Council of State’s advice can be consulted on the Chamber of Representatives’ website.