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The limits to multiple representation by football intermediaries under FIFA rules and Swiss Law - By Josep F. Vandellos Alamilla

Editor’s note: Josep F. Vandellos Alamilla is an international sports lawyer and academic based in Valencia (Spain) and a member of the Editorial Board of the publication Football Legal. Since 2017 he is the Director of  the Global Master in Sports Management and Legal Skills FC Barcelona – ISDE.

I think we would all agree that the reputation of players’ agents, nowadays called intermediaries, has never been a good one for plenty of reasons. But the truth is their presence in the football industry is much needed and probably most of the transfers would never take place if these outcast members of the self-proclaimed football family were not there to ensure a fluid and smooth communication between all parties involved.

For us, sports lawyers, intermediaries are also important clients as they often need our advice to structure the deals in which they take part. One of the most recurrent situations faced by intermediaries and agents operating off-the-radar (i.e. not registered in any football association member of FIFA) is the risk of entering in a so-called multiparty or dual representation and the potential risks associated with such a situation.

The representation of the interests of multiple parties in football intermediation can take place for instance when the agent represents the selling club, the buying club and/or the player in the same transfer, or when the agent is remunerated by multiple parties, and in general when the agent incurs the risk of jeopardizing the trust deposited upon him/her by the principal. The situations are multiple and can manifest in different manners.

This article will briefly outline the regulatory framework regarding multiparty representation applicable to registered intermediaries. It will then focus on provisions of Swiss law and the identification of the limits of dual representation in the light of the CAS jurisprudence and some relevant decisions of the Swiss Federal Tribunal.


A)   Regulatory framework:

Those agents acting in the market as registered intermediaries will necessarily be subjected to the specific football regulations enacted by FIFA and the national associations in which they operate. The answer as to the possibility to represent more than one party to a deal will therefore, be necessarily found in internal rules of each association. 

As opposed to the obsolete FIFA Players’ Agent Regulations[1], the FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries (RWWI) allow intermediaries to represent more than one party in a transaction. Pursuant to the definition of intermediary[2] in combination with Article 8 RWWI, the only substantive requirement to intermediaries willing to act for multiple parties is that they obtain prior written consent and confirmation in writing on which party (i.e. the player and/or the club) will remunerate the services of the intermediary. The regulations, therefore, prioritize transparency over the question of who pays for the services of the intermediary. Consequently, it is not forbidden for an intermediary to represent and be paid by multiple parties to a transaction, as long as they all know and agree to it in advance.  

At a national level, most FIFA member associations[3] have followed the solution adopted in the RWWI and have transposed ad literam the right of intermediaries to multiparty representation as long as the transparency and information requirements are met (i.e. any potential conflict of interest is disclosed to the parties in advance, and subject to the prior written consent of the parties to the transaction).

However, there are still many agents that prefer to operate off-the-radar of organized football and its regulations. For these ‘rogue’ agents, the scenario is different and the question of the legality of multiparty representation will ultimately depend on the applicable law chosen by the parties[4]. Based on my personal experience, off-the-radar agents often end up acting through very rudimentary authorizations subject to the ordinary jurisdiction of the CAS. For this reason, I chose to dissect in this paper the limits of multiparty representation according to Swiss law, for based on article XY of the CAS Code of Sports Arbitration it represents the applicable law to ordinary disputes before the CAS when parties fail to make a particular choice of law.

The provisions of the contract of brokerage (“contrat de courtage”) in Articles 412-418 of the Swiss Code of Obligations (CO) are of relevance in this regard. The cornerstone provision concerning conflict of interest is found in Article 415 CO[5] whose English translation reads as follows:

Where the broker acts in the interests of a third party in breach of the contract or procures a promise of remuneration from such party in circumstances tantamount to bad faith, he forfeits his right to a fee and to any reimbursement of expenses”.

The article differentiates between two non-cumulative hypothetical situations where the broker (i.e. agent) may be in a position of conflict of interests.

  • First: the broker “Acts in the interest of a third party in breach of the contract”.
  • Second: the broker “Procures a promise of remuneration from such party in bad faith”.

The first hypothesis establishes the prohibition of the broker to act in the interest of a third party if the obligations towards his client are breached. Accordingly, an agent representing a player is prevented from assisting the players’ contracting club to negotiate the terms of his employment contract, as he would be defending irreconcilable interests (i.e. the interest of the club to pay the lowest salary possible v/ the interest of the player to obtain the highest possible salary). Conversely, the same agent could be hired by the club in a different transaction without incurring a conflict of interest with the player. The condition triggering this first hypothesis will be thus, whether the agent acting for the third party is in breach of his contractual obligations.

It is important to note that the published English translation of the CO differs slightly from the original text of the code[6]. While the English translation refers to the breach of the “contract”, the original French version refers instead to a breach of the “obligations” which has obviously a broader scope, covering a wider range of situations than a contract might include.

This linguistic difference can be misleading as the obligations emanating from the CO may go beyond the obligations set forth in a simple authorization or a brokerage contract. By way of example, think of a very simple “Authorization” that does not explicitly prohibit the agent of the player to simultaneously act for the club. Sticking to literal text of the English translation, one could be tempted to believe that the agent was not acting in breach of the contract. However, the same situation seen under the lens of the legal obligations would imply that the agent could still be infringing the obligation of loyalty and trust stemming from the CO.

In view of the above, a correct evaluation of the first hypothesis will necessarily account for the legal obligations inherent to the brokerage contract, the scope of which might go beyond the obligations stipulated in the contract. Amongst these, the obligation of loyalty, the obligation to safeguard the interest of the client by not entering into conflictive situations, and the obligation of transparency and information.

The second hypothesis covers the prohibition in Swiss law of dual representation by procuring a promise of payment from third parties to the relationship broker/principal, if such a promise amounts to bad faith.

It needs to be underlined that this provision does not exclude dual payment, but subjects it to a certain limit, i.e. not incurring in bad faith. Delineating bad faith can turn out to be a difficult task as the concept itself has an inevitable component of subjectivity and, as opposed to good faith which is legally presumed (cf. Article 3 of the Swiss Civil Code), bad faith must always be proven by the party claiming it, who ultimately bears the burden of proof[7]

Applied to football agents, it can be safely assumed that an agent acting in good faith towards his client would necessarily act in a transparent way and inform his client that he is simultaneously acting for the other contracting party. Not disclosing such information in the context of negotiations can serve as indication of bad faith when combined with other elements. However, to prove the presence of bad faith will still require sufficient material evidence in order to discharge the burden of proof, since the simple negligence of the broker would not be sufficient to fall under the scope of the article.

The consequence for a broker (i.e. football agent) infringing the prohibition of dual representation in he hypotheses described in article 415 CO is the nullity of the contract and the forfeiture of the right to be remunerated, or the obligation to reimburse the amounts received if the infringement is ascertained after the realization of the contract and payment of the fee (“quod nullum est nullum producit effectum”).  

With the above premises in mind, a detailed look into the CAS and the Swiss Federal Tribunal jurisprudence regarding Article 415 CO will help identifying the scope of the legal obligations of a football agent towards his client (i.e. club and/or player), as well as the mechanisms used by the decision-making bodies to determine the existence of bad faith.


B)   Jurisprudence:

One of the very few CAS cases dealing with Article 415 CO in the context of football agents' relationships with clubs is the CAS award  2012/A/2988 PFC CSKA Sofia v. Loic Bensaid.

In short, the dispute opposed the flagship Bulgarian football club CSKA Sofia against a French football agent and revolved around the right of the latter to be remunerated by the club, considering he had acted simultaneously in representation of the player in the signature of the employment contract.

One of the many arguments used by the club in support of its alleged right not to pay the agent was based on Article 415 CO. The club asserted that the agent acted in violation of his obligations for having represented both parties. On the merits, the Sole Arbitrator concluded, nevertheless, that the agent had fulfilled the obligations of transparency and information as the Club was aware at all times that the agent also acted for the player and knew about the existence of the representation contract with the player[8]. The full knowledge and acceptance of the situation impeded the club to contend, at a later stage, the violation of the duty of loyalty and transparency.

Secondly, adhering to the grounds of the supporting FIFA decision, the Sole Arbitrator also remarked that the mandate between the Agent and the player did not contain any obligation to remunerate the services of the agent. The prohibition of agents to be remunerated twice for their services has been traditionally a key element in previous FIFA decisions where dual representation was at the center of the dispute[9]. This fact possibly led the Sole Arbitrator to also highlight this circumstance when assessing the behavior of the agent. However, the Sole Arbitrator further stated that, even if the mandate would have provided for a remuneration in favor of the agent (quod non), Article 415 CO would still not have been violated as the club failed to discharge the burden of proof as to the existence of bad faith, reinforcing with it that dual representation is only forbidden to the extent the agent acts in bad faith[10].

This final remark of the Sole Arbitrator is crucial as it evidences, in my view, that whether the player and the agent agreed upon a remuneration, remains in the end irrelevant for the evaluation of a possible violation of Article 415 CO. Indeed, pursuant to the CAS arbitrator’s interpretation of the article, the agent can be remunerated twice, as it is the disregard of the obligations inherent to the contract and in particular for the second hypothesis acting in bad faith that determines compliance with Article 415 CO.

To better illustrate the irrelevance of the “double remuneration” discussion, think for a moment of a brokerage contract where there is no explicit reference to the remuneration. Does such a lacuna in the contract imply that the brokerage is necessarily, pro bono? The answer is no, for as a general rule, mandates given in the context of professional relationships are presumed to be lucrative (see Art. 394(3) CO). That is precisely the case of football agents when they contract with players or clubs. This circumstance renders the reference to a remuneration in the contract a secondary element, or at least not an essential one. The former FIFA PAR (Ed. 2008[11]) followed this ratio legis when explicitly providing for a default remuneration of 3% of the players’ basic income where the parties cannot agree on the remuneration.

Beyond the specific CAS awards, some decisions of the Swiss Tribunal Federal help getting the full perspective on dual representation in the context of disputes subject to Swiss law. Although these do not refer to football agents, the similarities that exist with real estate and/or corporate brokers allow to derive important conclusions that can be applied to football agents.

A first decision worth mentioning is no. 4A_214/2014 of 15 December 2014. The case concerned a classic real estate intermediation where the agent agreed a commission from both the seller and the buyer involved in the transaction. The agent also failed to inform the seller of the existence of a better buying offer from a third potential buyer. In this context, after concluding the deal, the buyer refused to pay the agent, invoking Article 415 CO.

This case is important because it reveals the existence of two types of brokerage contracts under Swiss law (i.e. “courtage de negotiation” and the “courtage d’indication”). Whereas in a brokerage of negotiation the broker is entrusted by his client to negotiate the conditions of the transaction, in a brokerage of indication, the broker is simply called to indicate the possibility to conclude a transaction, with no negotiation duties involved. Furthermore, according to the doctrine cited in the decision, both types of contract are treated differently under Article 415 CO.

In casu, the Federal Tribunal qualified the contracts signed by the agent with the buyer and the seller as “courtage de negotiation” as he was entrusted with conducting all aspects related to the transaction. The agent was required to obtain the best possible conditions for his clients (e.g. the best buying and selling price respectively) and this circumstance directly generated an irremediable conflict of interest (i.e. the negotiation was either benefitting the financial interests of seller or the buyer) infringing the obligation of loyalty inherent to the brokerage contracts with the parties.

All in all, the Federal Tribunal rejected the appeal submitted by the real estate agent and confirmed the nullity of both contracts for violating Article 415 CO. The Federal Tribunal followed a strict interpretation of Article 415 CO according to which “no one can serve two masters” and thus, dual representation would only be possible (if so) in simple intermediations where no negotiation from the broker is required[12], in other words in “courtage d’indication”. In addition, in this case the agent also acted in bad faith for failing to disclose the existence of a more favorable offer to the detriment of the seller.

The main lesson that can be learnt from this decision is that Article 415 CO must be interpreted restrictively and that it has to be distinguished between those intermediation contracts that imply an active involvement of the agent (i.e. the agent is contractually required to negotiate the terms of a transaction for the player and/or the club) and those contracts of intermediation where the agent is called to simply indicate the possible opportunity for his client to conclude a deal with no other involvement in the transaction. In this last case, dual representation could be allowed for there would be no conflict of interests, and therefore, no infringement of the obligations under the brokerage contract. The specific contractual clauses are therefore crucial as they ultimately reveal the extent of the role assumed by the agent.

The second important decision by the SFT is more recent, no. 4A_529/2015 of 4 March 2016. The factual background of this dispute is extremely complex. In brief, the case revolved around the selling and buying of the shares of a company exploiting a luxurious Hotel located in Switzerland. The seller and the broker entered into a negotiation brokerage contract whereby the latter was entrusted to find a buyer of the company against the payment of remuneration. The principal had to agree with the final potential buyer. In the end, it was proved that the broker misled the principal about the true identity of the final buyer (to whom the principal expressly refused to sell), with whom the broker had also agreed remuneration. On the basis of these facts, the principal refused to pay the broker. 

The Federal Tribunal confirmed again that Article 415 CO is always interpreted strictly, and considered that by allowing the banned buyer to indirectly acquire the company, the broker acted in the interest of a third party against the obligation of loyalty. What is most significant about this decision is that the court delimitates very clearly the scope of the obligation of loyalty. It is described as a double-edged sword, implying on the one side: a positive obligation consisting of actively safeguarding and defending the interest of the principal; and on the other side: a negative obligation, consisting of abstaining from any conduct that could harm the interests of the client.  

In particular, the fact that the principal had not objected to a previous e-mail sent by the broker where he expressly indicated that the potential buyer was “C or any company indicated by it” was also irrelevant for the principal could not expect in ‘good faith’ that the buyer would make use of this substitution prerogative in favor of the real buyer. The arguments of the broker according to which it was not important for the principal to know who the buyer was and that he suffered no damage, were also dismissed.   

Finally, the argument of the broker according to which the remuneration to be received from the buyer was agreed after the transaction took place was also irrelevant in the eyes of the court.

With these cases in mind, when applying the holding of the SFT above to football agents' professional relationships, it follows that the scope of the obligation of loyalty will be significantly wider for football agents entrusted with negotiations than for agents simply tasked with identifying possible opportunities to close a deal.

Likewise, in order to determine the existence of a violation of the obligations assumed by the agent, it will not be enough to demonstrate that there has been no threat to the interests of the client or that the agent has not actively engaged in a conduct against those interests. Indeed, a simple passive conduct with the potential of jeopardizing the interests of the principal, such as failing to disclose relevant information, can be sufficient to violate the obligation of loyalty and deprive the agent from the right to be remunerated.

To this effect, the correct identification of the interest pursued by the client will ultimately determine the infringement by the agent of his obligations under the representation contract. In the end, the agent will only violate his obligation of loyalty as long as his behavior damages the interests of his client. These interests will vary depending on whether the principal is a football club or a player. If a club is trying to transfer or recruit a player, the interests will in most cases be of a financial nature. If instead, the principal is a football player terminating or signing a contract with a club, he might have non-economic interests (e.g. willing to play in a different championship, lack of integration of the family in the country etc.). Furthermore, the moment in which the remuneration is agreed is not relevant to establish the violation of the obligation of loyalty.

In conclusion, the contract of representation and its clauses in combination with the particular circumstances of each case will be fundamental to establish compliance with Article 415 CO when multiple representation takes place.   Football agents pretending to be remunerated by both contracting parties simultaneously without risking to violate their obligations must either enter into simple brokerage contracts with no negotiation attributions, or, when acting through a negotiation brokerage, always inform all parties in complete transparency. 


[1] See Article 19.8 FIFA PAR.

[2] “Definition of an intermediary

A natural or legal person who, for a fee or free of charge, represents players and/or clubs in negotiations with a view to concluding an employment contract or represents clubs in negotiations with a view to concluding a transfer agreement.” [Emphasis added]

[3] Only the FFF (France), the RFU (RUSSIA), the BFU (Bulgaria) the JFA (Japan) have explicitly adopted stricter rules prohibiting any conflict of interest. See Comparative Table of “The FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries Implementation at a national level” (Ed. Michele Colucci).

[4] E.g. Arbitrage TAS 2007/O/1310 Bruno Heiderscheid c. Franck Ribéry.

[5] See article R45 of the CAS Code (ed. 2017).

[6] Art. 415. III. Déchéance:

“Le courtier perd son droit au salaire et au remboursement de ses dépenses, s'il agit dans l'intérêt du tiers contractant au mépris de ses obligations, ou s'il se fait promettre par lui une rémunération dans des circonstances où les règles de la bonne foi s'y opposaient.”

[7] See. Decision of the SFT 131 III 511 para. 3.2.2 of

[8] See para. 118.

[9] E.g. Decision of the Single Judge of the PSC of 12 January 2012:12. In view of the above, the Single Judge formed the view that, although the Claimant appears to have represented the Respondent and the player in the same transaction, the documentary evidence contained in the file clearly demonstrates that the Claimant could not have possibly been remunerated twice for his services. Consequently, and in accordance with the general principles of bona fide and pacta sunt servanda the Single Judge decided that the Respondent must fulfill the obligation it voluntarily entered into with the Claimant by means of the representation agreement concluded between the parties, and therefore, the Respondent must pay the Claimant for the services he rendered in connection with the transfer of the player to the Respondent.”

[10] See also para. 118.

[11] See i.c. article 20 para. 4 FIFA PAR (ed. 2008).

[12] See para. 1.1.3 of the SFT decision. An example of a courtage d’indication would be the brokerage of insurances, where the broker, acting for the policy-holder, is paid instead, by the insurance company.