Mission 89 X EFAA: The role of player’s agents in combating trafficking in football
In conversation with EFAA Secretary General, Roberto Branco Martins
The European Football Agents Association (‘EFAA’) is a non-profit organisation which represents the collective interests of players’ agents in European professional football. In a bid to raise awareness of prevalent issues in the sport, EFAA has entered into a partnership with Mission 89 to acknowledge the consequences of trafficking in sport and play a part in combating it.
This joint venture focuses on education and the spread of information through Mission 89 social media. The campaign will run across all major social media platforms until 15 September. The objective is to educate young people on irregular migration and trafficking of minors in football. We spoke to EFAA Secretary General, Roberto Branco Martins, about EFAA’s goals for the future, and how a successful partnership could raise much needed awareness of trafficking in football.
“My official role is EFAA General Counsel,” he said. He came into this role almost 20 years ago after he conducted EU-wide research to find alternative platforms for regulating employment issues in the European professional football sector.
“I noticed that all individual actors in football, except the football agents, were gathered in an organisation that defended their collective interest. Together with leading agents, that notion led to the creation of EFAA.”
Martins describes the mission of EFAA as one that maintains professionalism and transparency in all the activities players’ agents undertake. “We do this by means of promoting an inclusive ‘agent’ voice in the international professional football sector,” he told us, “always in constructive collaboration with the established stakeholders.”
Mission 89: How does EFAA support players agents?
Roberto Branco Martins: EFAA is an umbrella organisation of national agent associations. EFAA serves as the channeled voice for these individual associations and also for their individual members. EFAA has the experience and networks to assist in practically every element of agent activity [and] our members look for us for support.
M89: With globalization and the rapid commercialisation of football, how much has the landscape changed for player agents over the years?
RBM: The landscape has changed a lot due to the [over-]commercialisation of football. But the major changes are connected to the changes in the [framework of] regulation of players’ agents. The regulation needs to find a balance between the freedom of profession versus the necessary protection of vulnerable players and the need for transparency in payments in the transfer business. This leads to a struggle for legal certainty and that struggle remains a serious issue today.
M89: What do you think of the proposed agents’ regulations set by FIFA? And will it affect the way player agents work today?
RBM: EFAA believes that the current intentions will, overall, benefit the football agent industry. However, the regulations are not set in stone yet and for these principles to become regulations, some important steps towards consensus still need to be taken. EFAA is willing and able to assist FIFA and the stakeholders in any serious and well documented consultancy.
M89: In light of the proposed regulations, what are EFAA’s short- and long-term objectives?
RBM: Our objectives are always connected to our mission. Concrete, practical examples are a necessity for an international arbitration tribunal to efficiently solve international disputes; all while taking account of the specificity of the profession and a solid mechanism to guarantee that payments to, and representation by agents are not too far from the realistic agent activities. A set of rules needs to be simple and easy to follow and not leave open ends for forum shopping to circumvent the rules.
M89: The issue of trafficking of minors in football is a sensitive one, how high does EFAA rank the issue of football trafficking of minors in its agenda?
RBM: Very high. But EFAA realizes that it must work with other stakeholders to best combat this issue.
M89: What is EFAA doing to combat the trafficking of minors in football?
RBM: We have proudly engaged in approaching Mission 89 and look forward to actively communicating the objectives and outcomes of this project to our members and in doing so educate them where necessary about [trafficking].
M89: What role can EFAA play in combating the trafficking of minors in football?
RBM: We believe that we can create awareness among agents, football talents and their parents. It is important to know what an agent does, and even more importantly, what should NOT be the role of an agent. Many activities that are connected to child trafficking have nothing to do with how EFAA sees the portfolio of agent activities. Criminals that are involved in these type of crimes should not be placed under the scope of the definition of a players’ agent. EFAA wishes to bring this message across to its members and other relevant addressees.
M89: What advice would you give to young people out there who would like to pursue a career as a player agent?
RBM: Smell the sense of reality. Being a player agent is not what the media makes of it. You will not become a millionaire overnight and the chance that you will make a good living out of it is also very small. It is a tough industry and the ‘romantic’ idea troubles reality too much. Only start if you have enough skills and funds to make it for a while without running the risk of temptation to fall into dodgy alternatives in order to make ends meet.
M89: Which aspect of your work as EFAA Secretary General makes you the proudest?
RBM: The idea that, despite the stigma, we have been able to prove that we genuinely contributed to better standards in the international transfer business and that, in such a change, we have made our mark. It makes me proud to be part of such a process, focusing [specifically] on sport as a unifying and peaceful entity in the world, and to combat the wrongdoings that are a result of poor regulation and the over-commercialisation of football.