Scope of application
All legal or natural persons carrying out private employment intermediation services in Flanders (on behalf of employers or (potential) paid sportsmen and sportswomen), with the aim of concluding an employment contract as a paid sportsman or sportswoman, are subject to the new rules. Even for a one-time transaction, the new rules apply. Agents of coaches must also comply with the new legislation. The rules apply in addition to the existing legal framework in Flanders (there are regional differences since other laws govern the activity of agents in both Wallonia and Brussels).
Obligation to register
A prior registration with the Department of Work and Social Economy is now mandatory for all sports agents in Flanders, subject to fines and even imprisonment. Such registration is valid for an indefinite period and the agent’s registration number must be stated in external communications (e-mail, invoices, agreements, advertisements, etc.). Agents are prohibited from cooperating with non-registered sports agents. Both clubs and agents who “knowingly and willingly” work with non-registered agents, risk criminal penalties.
Mandatory guarantee deposit of 25,000 EUR
Sports agents are required to make a guarantee deposit of 25,000 EUR. The proof of such a deposit must be sent to the administration within 30 days after registration. Agents without a registered office in the Flemish Region can invoke the principle of equivalence for a guarantee paid in another EU Member State.
New rules related to the protection of minors
Agents may no longer ‘poach’ athletes younger than 15 with a view to entering into a representation agreement. This also applies to indirect poaching via, for example, the athlete’s parents. Further, players or clubs that engage the services of an agent when negotiating an employment contract or a transfer agreement are prohibited from making any payments to an agent if the player concerned is under 18.
New rules taking effect soon
The Flemish Government announced that the rules would enter into force on 11 June 2019.
Following the publication of the decision that provided for the entry into force, the rules are now binding.
Our Sports Law Team has already advised several agents and clubs regarding the new rules and its consequences. The new rules introduced by the Flemish Government will have an immediate impact during football’s summer transfer period, but the consequences for agents in other sports such as basketball, hockey, cycling and volleyball cannot be underestimated. Although the new rules might risk being challenged for possible non-compliance with EU law, it should be assumed that sports agents will be closely monitored in the future.