JOHANNESBURG – Some of South Africa’s prominent football agents have denied any wrongdoing after it emerged late on Tuesday that they were embroiled in a bitter court battle with the Competition Commission, which is accusing them of “fixing prices and trading conditions”.
In an unexpected twist to a saga that began in March 2015 when the South African Football Association (Safa) – claiming to act on recommendations by Fifa – attempted to impose a 3 percent cap on the fee charged by these player agents, the Competition Commission said it had referred them to the Competition Tribunal for prosecution.
“I have no idea why this in now in the media because the matter is under sub judice and therefore we cannot say much about it,” said Arthur Dlamini, a lawyer representing the SA Football Intermediaries Association (SAFIA), which is a group of football agents.
“I am not sure what the charges are. The last time we were in court was in January, and this was an interrogation process where the Commission was trying to establish some facts. I am surprised that this is now in the public domain.”
More than two years ago, Safa president Danny Jordaan announced that there would be a new commission rule of 3 percent, one which prominent player agents in the country immediately spoke out against.
They claimed it would change the landscape of SA football and dent their pockets.
Agents here charge fees as high as 10 percent, and their argument was that amounts paid to players in the Premier Soccer League were not substantial, while in Europe for instance, 3 percent would be a sizable commission.
The Competition Commission is accusing all 37 members of SAFIA of the following:
* SAFIA is colluding to charge soccer players and coaches a standard fee of 10 percent commission fee when negotiating on their behalf.
* They also charge players and coaches a standard 20 percent commission fee when negotiating new contracts on their behalf. This includes contracts with personal sponsors.
* Agents are using SAFIA as a platform for their agenda.
“In referring the matter to the Tribunal for prosecution, the Commission is seeking an order declaring that SAFIA and its members contravened the Competition Act. The Commission also wants SAFIA and its members to cease from engaging in this conduct and similar conduct in the future,” the statement read.
Agents have also been told they will have to pay a maximum fine allowed in terms of the Competition Act.
Two intermediaries who spoke on condition of anonymity said this was a ploy to rid SA football of people like them for good. “Nobody in this country wants us to continue playing the role of the middle man,” said one agent.
“They are using the public to drive us out. Why would we collude when we are in competition against one another in the first place?” said another.
The issue around capping the fee charged by agents has not made headlines since Jordaan’s bold announcement in March 2015, which makes the statement from the Competitions Commission slightly bizarre.
But it is clear a war has been ensuing in the two years that no mention has been made of the 10 versus 3 percent agent fee.