On October 14, a judgment will be rendered by the Paris Court of Appeal to rule on the prerogatives of sports agent lawyers, competitors of agents. A decision eagerly awaited by the two parties, who have been side by side in the representation of players for ten years now, without however reaching an agreement.
It’s been more than ten years since the golden egg hens began to slip from their hands. Ten years that sports attorneys, under the law of March 28, 2011, come to walk on their flowerbeds. They are the sports agents who, until then, had a great time promoting players on the transfer market and earning nice commissions. In 2021, the situation has not completely changed – some agents continue to line their pockets – but the environment is changing. Faced with the 500 sports agents licensed with the French Football Federation, there are now more than 300 sports attorneys (AMS, to simplify) at the national level.
And it is an understatement to say that since their recognition, these legal professionals – whose activity as sports agent is intended to be “accessory” – have shaken up the codes. Many players have also decided to take the plunge: Kylian Mbappé, Antoine Griezmann, Adrien Rabiot or even Alban Lafont use AMS, while entrusting the management of their career to members of their family. But a difference between AMS and sports agents remains: by definition, lawyers only deal with their clients and can only be paid by them, and not by the clubs. This is where the problem lies. A new provision of the rules of procedure of the Paris Bar extended the prerogatives of the sports attorney lawyer a year ago, who can now “carrying out the activity of bringing together, for remuneration, the parties interested in concluding a contract. » In other words, approach a club and play the role of sports agent with the signing of a three-party contract.
The Adams Family Threat
The outcry was not long in coming: the Paris Court of Appeal looked into the case and is due to render its decision on October 14. It is around this judgment that the tensions now crystallize between sports representatives and agents, who have been accumulating resentment and rivalry for ten years. “The decision will not change anything, they are already approaching the clubs. They already work like us” , sighs an agent, one of whose biggest clients left him to be represented by a lawyer. It must be said that the AMS have everything to please, with the ability to do the job of agents in addition to providing legal expertise. A kind of double agent. “For me, agents make a lot of money for nothing” explained Jean-Philippe Mateta in March 2020 to France Soccer. The Crystal Palace player finally chose to be represented by a lawyer.
“There is a real need for families, and we are responding to it. A need for confidentiality, but also and above all for deontology and ethics. We don’t have the same ethics as the agents. » Me Jim Michel-Gabriel, President of the Adams
Among sports agents, the name that comes up the most is that of Mr.e Jim Michel-Gabriel. President and founder of the association of sports agent lawyers (Adams), the lawyer is in the game for ten years. “There is a real need for families, and we are responding to it. A need for confidentiality, but also and above all for deontology and ethics. We don’t have the same ethics as agentsasserts Me Michael-Gabriel. They are closer to the broker than anything else, because they try to meet supply and demand. Whereas me, I will always have the reflex to privilege the interest of the athlete to the detriment of my commission. »
Risk of radiation against small biftons
Arguments that are far from convincing Stéphane Canard, president of the Union of Sports Agents of Football (UASF): “I know football very well, but how well do lawyers know this environment? » He has been there for thirty years, and would like to stick to the agent-lawyer duo, where the first takes care of the player’s sports career, while the second manages contract issues. But beyond the roles assigned to each, the president of the UASF deplores above all “the difference in treatment between sports agents and sports attorneys” . “We are checked every year by a DNCG of agents. While sports agents are not subject to any control by the FFF, which causes abuses. »
“We agents are checked every year by a DNCG of agents. While sports agents are not subject to any control by the FFF, which causes abuses. » Stéphane Canard, president of the UASF
If they risk disbarment for misconduct of their business, some lawyers do not hesitate to go beyond the legal framework for the sake of profit. In mid-August, the FFF thus filed a complaint against Me Frédéric Baby, sports attorney suspected of collaborating with an intermediary not licensed to the federation. A practice far too common according to sports agents. “Sports lawyers only exist for one reason in my opinion, it is when the family of a player wants to take care of it, because it allows them to collect commissions” , explains an agent on condition of anonymity. Generally not licensed with the FFF, family members and other intermediaries would thus receive retro-commissions from lawyers, an illegal practice.
“I have even seen a contract between a sports representative and a player where it is stipulated in an article that, being aware of his ignorance of football, he obtains the player’s authorization to sub-mandate a speaker for issues related to football. sport. And this speaker is obviously not licensed with the FFF ” , laments Stéphane Canard. President of the Adams, Me Michel-Gabriel defends himself against all illegal practices among sports agents – “we are not going to take the risk of being struck off for a small ticket…” – and regrets that the arrival of his peers in the middle was not better received by sports agents, the FFF and the LFP.
The disgust of sports agents
Inevitably, faced with the progressive loss of their monopoly, the agents feel a form of “discomfort, disgust” , assures Stéphane Canard, who receives complaints from his colleagues. In the midst of all this, the decision of October 14 could prove decisive for the future of the profession. “If tomorrow, the agent license is more of a disadvantage than an advantage, I will really ask myself the question of keeping it” , indicates the president of the UASF. Another agent, pessimistic about next month’s decision, is convinced that “some lawyers are in favor of a numerus clausus to close the profession” .
He doesn’t believe so well. Me Michael Gabriel: “They should have made a numerus clausus to release only two agents instead of 200.” If the Paris Court of Appeal validates the new regulations in October and expands the prerogatives of sports attorneys, the agents would lose a little more control of an environment that they engulfed until 2011. To the point of questioning on the future of the profession. So why become a sports agent today? Until then so quick to answer questions, Mr.e Michel-Gabriel pauses for a long time, before concluding: “I couldn’t answer you. »
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