IN FOOTBALL circles, agents are often spoken about in unsavoury ways. Clubs regularly cite the influence of players’ advisers for relationships breaking down and transfer deals collapsing and, as a result, the public perception of their profession is hardly favourable.
But is that fair? Do agents get a bad press? And, perhaps most pertinently, what exactly is their role within the football industry?
To find out, the Advertiser spoke to our secret agent, a man with a decade’s worth of experience within the game and currently a member of a major sports management agency, who works in the UK market and abroad.
The agent does not feel he and his peers are accurately represented. Instead of being in the game simply to make money off the successes of his charges, he says that there is a duty of care most agents stick by as they guide young players with large pay packets through stormy waters.
“I think it’s unfair,” he said. “There are two facets to agenting and the one that earns you less money is harder work. Say you represent a player from the Swindon team, let’s say the right-back and he’s released, then you have to find him another job.
“You spend a lot of time phoning League One or League Two clubs, maybe below that, to try to find out which clubs may be looking in that position. Then, once you find out, say that Leyton Orient are looking for a right-back, then you’re trying to persuade Russ Slade to take yours. He may like yours but he may not be at the top of his list, so you need to keep on to him whilst also speaking to other clubs. This takes up a lot of your time, you’re doing more and more work for less reward. It’s like being a recruitment consultant.
“The other side is you’re the agent of a player who is playing at Swindon who is suddenly bought by a Championship or Premier League club, something you’ve already been involved in, and then you’re negotiating a big contract so it’s a different kind of pressure.
“Agents get a bad reputation because a lot of them are faceless. The club will moan because the agent has been touting their player around but then the club will certainly say to us ‘can you find out the details about a certain player, like what he might cost, his current salary’.
“I just think we’re the easy ones to blame. Some agents do stick their hand up and say it’s unfair but generally we take the stick. There are bad agents in the business, as there are football managers, chief execs, there’s a bad everybody in football but on the whole most of us do a good job.
“There are so many agents now. You speak to 15 or 16-year-old kids at clubs and they’ve got agents. It’s ridiculous.
“When the paying public see their club has spent X amount on agents and it’s ‘greedy agents this’ and ‘greedy agents that’. It’s a business and definitely for Swindon fans. Swindon Town don’t pay over the odds to agents, they pay the going rate, which is five per cent.”
Though high-ranking agents such as Kia Joorabchian and David Manasseh may make impressive livings from their dealings with the rich and famous, other player representatives have to graft hard over long hours to make ends meet.
And our agent says life in the industry is not necessarily as glamorous as it is sometimes portrayed to be.
“You have independent agents who basically need a deal to feed themselves. We’re in a similar situation - agents who work in agencies are basically paying for their seat in the agency,” he said.
“You cost the company money so you’ve got to bring in that cost plus making the company money. There is that pressure but you can forecast what you’re going to do. From the deals I did in the summer I know what’s going to happen this year.”
Agents will deal with players, clubs and other representatives as they look to get deals done but perhaps their most taxing responsibility comes away from the negotiating table – keeping their ambitious clients happy during times of frustration.
“Then you have the pressure of a player who wants to move and he’s the one phoning you,” the secret agent explains.
“You have to manage that pressure. If you have a goalkeeper, for instance, you can’t invent a club who wants a goalkeeper. You have to wait for a position to become available then try to hope to get your client in the frame for the job.”
“It’s very easy for a player to blame an agent for not moving but, as long as you know the agent is doing the work and speaking to clubs, then that’s all they can do.”