In light of a contentious case going on between the French Football federation and an agent hoping to work in France, a legal affair is escalating, which may lead to one of the most significant recent regulation changes in world football.
WeSportFR are reporting that the certification obtained by football agents in France could disappear, thus leading to a decision similar to that of the Bosman Ruling in 1995. The latter was a major decision in the footballing world, as clubs were limited on the amount of foreign players they could recruit.
In order to work as a football agent in France, you need a specific diploma given by a national sport association (in this case the French football federation). Without it, one cannot take up this function. However, two conditions are set to be put into place:
1 | The possibility, for a national of a member state of the European Union where the profession as an agent is not regulated, to establish themself as an agent on French soil
2 | The possibility, for an established national in one of the European Union states, to file an annual statement on their activity as a sports agent within the context of service provision
Despite international bodies’ desire to eliminate agent regulation, as outlined in FIFA’s circular letter 14-17 in April 2014, France has maintained it.
That is how Mr. Gad Cohen’s (intermediary within the European federation) request to establish himself in France was rejected.
In accordance with the applicable regulation, Mr. Cohen has brought this case to the French Olympic Committee. If all else fails, he will bring this to the Administrative tribunal (CAS) in case of non-conciliation.
Article L. 222-15 of Sports law states that a national of a member state of the European Union or of a state that is part of the European Economic Space can work in French territory as an agent under certain conditions:
1 | [They] must have worked for at least one whole year in the European Union during these last ten years; or part time as a sports agent within one of the member states of the EU, where the profession and training is not regulated.
2 | [They] must hold a certification of competence.
In other words, an agent hoping to obtain a certification in France, must prove that he has respected the aforementioned conditions.
Article one implies that one can have worked as a sports agent where the training is regulated, and where they have the necessary certification or have been deemed eligible by their country’s federation.
Mr. Laurent Fellous, Mr. Gad Cohen’s attorney, told WeSportFr that his client did indeed meet these conditions. For proof, he presented contracts thus attesting to at least four years of experience, which meets and exceeds the minimum amount of experienced required in article L 222-15.
Vis-à-vis the second condition, the football federation does not generally provide attestations or certifications of competence, and instead refers directly to the contracts recorded with the English football federation. Therefore, Mr. Cohen fulfills this requirement insofar as the contracts were duly received and transmitted.
Mr. Fellous made a statement saying that:
“Mr. Gad Cohen is within his right to establish himself in France because he has proved that:
1 | He is a national of a member state of the European Union;
2 | and has outlined his skillset by showing multiple contracts and exchanges completed over the course of many years.”
The Federal Commission of Sports Agents within the French Football Federation still rejected his request for supposedly not meeting the necessary requirements.
The commission also alluded to a missing document attesting to Mr. Cohen’s training, even though Article L. 222-15 of sport code specifically says one can either submit a document attesting to one’s training or a certification of competence.
On what grounds has it been rejected? According to the minutes from a meeting with the Federal Commission of Sports Agents within the French Football Federation, Mr. Cohen did not satisfy those requirements.
Despite presenting multiple documents, Mr. Cohen’s rejection preventing him from working was on a supposed lack of justification for qualification and required experience.
The French Football Federation has based this on a required certification not being submitted, even if it is not a requirement in the aforementioned article.
Is this a simple inconsistency? What do various forms of law and code say?
French constitution: “France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs. It shall be organised on a decentralized basis.”
EU Charter of fundamental human rights:
Freedom to choose an occupation and right to engage in work
1 | Everyone has the right to engage in work and to pursue a freely chosen or accepted occupation.
2 | Every citizen of the Union has the freedom to seek employment, to work, to exercise the right of establishment and to provide services in any Member State.
3 | Nationals of third countries who are authorised to work in the territories of the Member States are entitled to working conditions equivalent to those of citizens of the Union.
Equality before the law
Everyone is equal before the law.
Freedom of movement and of residence
1 | Every citizen of the Union has the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States.
2 | Freedom of movement and residence may be granted, in accordance with the Treaties, to nationals of third countries legally resident in the territory of a Member State.
Yet, article L222-15 would be discriminating against nationals from member states of the EU. There seems to be a difference in treatment between Europeans working in countries where there is a lack of regulation and the French.
Mr. Cohen has already taken this matter to the French Olympic Committee for conciliation. He hopes to have a civil discussion rather than bringing this to court, but the issue lies in whether or not the opposing party wants to do so. In case of non-conciliation, he has prepared an appeal for the administrative tribunal of Paris.
Furthermore, since 2011, any person believing that the law is in opposition with the French constitution can file for a ruling on constitutionality. Mr. Fellous believes that article L. 222-15 would be in violation of the constitutional principle of equality before the law, as well as other EU laws and principles.
For the defence, this represents a fight to prove the constitutional nature of the charges Mr. Cohen is being charged for. But more significantly, this could be a significant step towards the end of regulation for sports agents in France.