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Oct 13, 2009

FIFA to hand over key responsibilities to the FA?

ESPNsoccernet has been told that the FA have accepted FIFA's invitation to take over highly-contentious disciplinary cases.

• Harry Harris: FA concern over owners

Talks have been ongoing to hand back cases the FA have passed onto FIFA. So far these talks have been strictly confidential, but they have now reached an advanced stage.

FIFA have informed the FA that they want to drop their role as the world's highest authority on cross-border transfer disputes, agent disputes, tapping-up rows and the poaching of young players.

ESPNsoccernet has learned that one of the most radical moves in world football - which is designed to change the way international transfer violations and cases involving rogue agents and accusations of 'child trafficking' are dealt with - came about because FIFA told the FA they cannot cope with the deluge of complaints and disciplinary cases and want to hand them over to the home country's associations.

Europe's top agents are in favour of removing the responsibility of investigating complaints and rule breaches from FIFA and hand it to the relevant associations.

Mel Stein, former agent to Paul Gascoigne, and who as a lawyer represents First Artist Corporation and is a leading light in the Association of Agents, told me: "It seems FIFA may be dropping out of regulation and leaving it to the FA. We at the AFA would be happy with that, though ideally we would like to be able to self regulate with appeal process to the FA.

''I do think that the less FIFA are involved with anything to do with UK agents, an industry they have never really understood, the better. The UK industry is in my view the best ordered of all agents' industries worldwide and we really don't need external European interference."

Jerome Anderson, vice-chairman of the European Association of Football Agents, and on the board of the domestic AFA, is in favour of the plans to change the landscape of transfer disciplinary processes.

"Over the years FIFA have had 1,000 complaints, and clearly they are not equipped to deal with them,'' he said. ''We want these cases reverting from FIFA to the domestic associations. We are lobbying hard for this to happen."

Leading agent Jon Smith added: "FIFA have abdicated their responsibilities in this field for some time, so they might as well abdicate it formally! In my view the players' unions should handle the discipline as they do in the States. Let's face it, if you're found guilty by the union then the players won't touch you - no-one would go against their own union."

The FA now monitor the transfer windows, and hand over any suspect cases that involve overseas transfers to FIFA - indeed, they handed over 15 cases relating to the Lord Stevens inquiry into Premier League transfers - and would not agree to allow the players' union to take control of such disciplinary matters. FIFA also received another 15 cases from the FA mainly concerning possible violations of agent regulations detected from recent transfer windows.

FIFA's general secretary Jerome Valcke made it known that investigations into transfer complaints involving English clubs could take years to complete - but that none are as serious as the case which led to a transfer ban on Chelsea. Valcke said FIFA were inundated with complaints the day after the disciplinary action against Chelsea was announced.

The club were found guilty of inducing French teenager Gael Kakuta to break his contract with Lens in 2007 when he was 16 and banned from making signings for two transfer windows. The club are appealing, but FIFA are now looking into several other cases from England, involving Manchester United and Manchester City among others.

Valcke, speaking in the USA, said: "The day after [Chelsea] we received a number of letters and calls. We have [a number of] investigations in England and we know already that these investigations are not at the same level as the Chelsea one. Everyone is coming with lawyers, and then it takes years, at least months, to finalise cases."

Under new rules which are coming into force now, a FIFA sub-committee will have to approve all international transfers of players aged under 18.

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