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Flemish government set to introduce new rules for sports agents

18/02/2019
Flemish government set to introduce new rules for sports agents
Photo: BCFC/Shutterstock.com

Last week, the Flemish Government has submitted a draft decree proposing important changes for sports agents. Sports agents with any professional activity in the Flemish Region will have to be registered and will have to deposit a guarantee of € 25,000. Also, sports agents will be prohibited from receiving remuneration for transactions involving minors and will not be allowed to approach athletes who are under 15 years old. With these proposed rules, the Flemish Government is trying to respond to "Operation Zero", the scandal that has plagued Belgian football this season.

Mandatory registration and a deposit of € 25,000

If the proposals are adopted, sports agents wishing to carry out professional activities in the Flemish Region will have to register with the Department of Work and Social Economy. This required registration will apply regardless of whether the sports agent is based in Belgium. With the proposed registration, the Flemish Government will also require a guarantee deposit of 25,000 EUR. Both unregistered agents and clubs working with unregistered agents could be subject to penalties. Agents collaborating with unregistered agents risk such penalties as well.

No payment for transfers involving minors

The draft decree also prohibits agents receiving any remuneration for mediation activities involving minors. Both FIFA and the Belgian FA already have a similar rule in place. In addition, agents may no longer ‘poach’ athletes younger than 15. This also applies to an indirect approach via, for example, the athlete’s parents. The preparatory Parliamentary works explain that the age limit is set at the age of 15 because in Belgium – this is the threshold age for entering into an employment contract under the Act of 24 February for paid sportsmen and sportswomen.

Complex situation for sports agents active in Belgium

The Flemish legislator’s new legislative initiatives come on top of earlier initiatives. For foreign agents, for example, it is not easy to cope with Belgian legislation. Each region has a different regulation with its own particularities. The Flemish decree of 10 December 2010, the Walloon decree of 3 April 2009, the Brussels ordinance of 14 July 2011 and the decree of the German-speaking community of 10 December 2010 can all apply to sports agents who wish to carry out activities in Belgium. In addition, the private regulations of sports federations, such as the Belgian Football Association, must also be taken into account.

There is no reciprocity principle, since the conditions for registration as a sports agent in Flanders differ from the conditions for registration as a private employment agency in both the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region.

Need for better enforcement of existing rules

The explanatory memorandum to the draft decree states that the recent wave of scandals in football requires the strengthening of the existing regulations concerning sports agents as the Flemish Government assumes that the existing regulations are insufficient. However, many problems might be solved via a better enforcement of the existing rules, including the legislation on private employment agencies. In recent years, the supervision of sports agents has been less of a priority in Flanders as parliamentary documents show that between 2015 and 2017 only one formal investigation was conducted on sports agents. However, the Flemish Minister of Sports has already stressed that several investigations were carried out in 2018. It is assumed that sports agents will be closely monitored in the future as well.

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