Football is big business. There are now extraordinary amounts of money that are being used to entice the best footballers in the world to different clubs. Within these transactions the person who is currently doing very well, with seemingly the least amount of work, is the football agent. As a result there are now mixed feelings towards football agents, with some people including ex-Manchester United defender Gary Neville stating that they should be removed from the game.
What is it that football agents actually do to deserve the amount of money that they get as a percentage from these deals? Surely as there are contracts and legal issues involved it would be wise for these transactions to be looked after by certified legal professionals? For example, rather than the huge percentage recently received for each of the Manchester City and United player transfers, there are a number of solicitors who would have been able to handle them at a fraction of the cost.
It is argued that football agents offer players insights into clubs and deals, and will be looking out for their clients’ best interests. They will also know a huge number of people in different clubs and may be able to open doors that would have been closed otherwise. In other words they are connectors, networkers and they know who to speak to, to get the deal done. They are also going to bend over backwards to ensure that anything that the player asks for can be delivered. In some ways they could be seen as player’s personal assistants and will do more unpaid hours in the hope of seeing that big deal coming through.
On the plus side football agents are licensed so there are some rules and you can’t just become one overnight, but there are a growing number of legal professionals who are getting involved in the contractual discussions. The positives to solicitors becoming involved are that they will work by the hour rather than taking 10% off the final deal tag, and as they are legally qualified they can take you through all the ins and outs of any deal that is being put together. There is also the code of confidentiality that appeals to players as everything is between them and the solicitor, so there is no chance of any leaks to tabloids. However it is a very competitive line of work to get into and players will want to find out who the solicitor knows and if can they get in touch with the right people at the right time to see a deal completed. In some respects this is more important than the hourly rate – especially if you are on £200,000 a week.
There are pros and cons to both sides of the argument. The agent’s knowledge and connections make him/her a very useful piece in helping a player get their foot in the door, but there is the big payday afterwards. Solicitors are professional and will listen to what their client wants without being distracted by what they will get out of it, but in some cases may be found looking in on the football industry rather than being in the middle of it.
No matter what the beautiful game will continue to grow, however being in the right place at the right time with the right support will be the key to many deals being done.
By Jamie Stevenson
Jamie Stevenson is a freelance copywriter who writes for a variety of websites, including a number of family solicitors in Manchester.