Football has come along way since the days of Bobby Moore and nothing more so than the business side of it.
Sponsorships, wages, image rights, shirts sales, bonuses, transfers and much more.This is all way too much for a top level player to handle and this makes way for a whole new career. The one of an agent.
So what does an agent do? Well, they look after all the backroom details of a footballers life, but the main thing is to make sure the player is always in a club and has a job. As all footballers are self employed, if they don’t have a club, they don’t have a job. And if they don’t have a job, they don’t have a wage! This affects the agent as their wage comes from that of their clients, usually around 5-7% but this can be higher depending on the deal.
Sometimes an agent will work alone but the the top agents usually get head hunted by the top agencies (New Era, Base Soccer and Stella Group to name a few) so they can bring the player(s) they have over to the agency. A few years ago agents used to have to pass an exam, mainly around questions about contracts, in order to get an FA agent license. But the FA have now introduced a position called FA Intermediaries which is pretty much the new version of an agent. To be an intermediary there is no requirement to pass an exam, you can apply on the FA website after which you’ll be vetted by the FA and then asked to pay a joining fee. The joining fee is around £600 in your first year and this drops in cost each year.
This means that there is a possibility of many people becoming agents and it’s become an attractive proposition now that transfer fees of average players are reaching £20 million in the top leagues around Europe.
But is this ultimately a good thing? More parents and family members are becoming agents to their sons/brothers or nephews and this can come with issues. As as we all know, family and business don’t always mix well. If the family member is too emotionally attached to the player, they may have a warped idea of what is best for the player’s career and when these ideas aren’t in alignment with that of the players, deep conflict can arise.
There is alot of money in football, and as people can be easily persuaded by the lure of earning more and more, agents are looked on as greedy money hounds that are only after the money deals and not always after the players interests. Unfortunately, this has been shown to be true in many cases over the years and players have suffered from this. Let’s take a look at Nicholas Anelka. Anelka moved from Arsenal to Real Madrid for whatwas at the time a record fee of over £20 million. His brother, who was his agent at the time, made a lot of money but Anelka’s football suffered for many years after that deal. It was obviously a good deal financially but could the agent whole heartedly say it was the best deal for Anelka’s career at the time? Anelka was on the rise with Arsenal and winning trophies. A few more years at Arsenal and he would have added more value to his name, became an even better player and commended more from his next move.
To help take care of a players wellbeing and ensure each move considers what is best for the player holistically, some of the good agencies and agents now have player liaisons who help to manage the players life and give them guidance for the future.
To find out more about getting into football; from academies, to what managers look for in a player, to more information on the role of agents, get a copy of ‘So you want to be a footballer’ by Dean Holness available on Amazon.
Written by Dean Holness