Becoming an adviser to players offers a route into the beautiful game, says ROBERT HOLLAND
There are arguably three key parts to the football calendar that tend to get fans most excited – the start of the season, the end of the season and yes, the summer transfer window. The window may be a little stressful for coaches, managers and owners (who write the cheques!) but for supporters of any club, whether in the lower leagues or at the top of the pyramid it’s a time of great possibilities, especially deadline day.
It’s also a time when football agents come to the fore and, for players at least, earn their corn.
Going back a few decades there was probably an image of agents being wheeler dealer, barrow boy types, with bungs and secret deals all done behind closed doors.
However, we have reached a point where that image has changed and some might even say that a few of the modern day super agents are at least as well known as the players – Jorge Mendes and Mino Raiola come to mind.
Of course, there is an element of glamour and yes, in quite a few cases there are millions of pounds involved.
But in reality, the role of an agent these days is a little more mundane, but still critical. Like many other areas, football has moved on and now football agency (or intermediary) is highly regulated, with those operating at the highest level often legally trained with large corporate agencies behind them.
It’s fair to say that Scotland still lags Europe, with anyone currently able to hold themselves out as an “intermediary” if they have a representation agreement with a player.
However, this is all set to change from 1 October this year at which point anyone who wishes to act in an international transfer must be a licensed agent with FIFA under the new FIFA football agents regulations (FFAR) which was set up to raise minimum professional and ethical standards.
Also, importantly, for those participating in a national league transaction ie the SPFL, then the national body must adopt at least the minimum standards as FIFA from October.
To become licensed means meeting certain criteria:
- Make a formal application
- Pass a fit and proper test
- Pass the new FIFA exam
- Pay an annual fee
- Continue with professional CPD
Bear in mind the current FIFA regulations on the subject run to some 50 pages.
No one should be in any doubt – becoming a football agent is not a hobby or side hustle. It is to all intents and purposes a profession, with stringent rules to adhere to and extensive study required.
One current issue which should be noted is that many agents and football bodies in Europe have challenged FFAR as being in contravention of competition law. In Germany the regional court in Dortmund has issued an injunction prohibiting their implementation until the matter is heard by the CCAS and the ECJ.
So is becoming agent an easy path? No, it’s not.
Is it a worthwhile profession, one which is interesting and can provide great job satisfaction and indeed a livelihood? Most definitely.
It is also one which requires more than great negotiating skills, especially when representing young players, particularly those coming through the youth system.
More than ever, young players (and indeed all players) need to be properly looked after.
Yes, the financial rewards are important, but their personal welfare, including mental health, is critical. In addition it is vital that players are provided with the best professional advice, from pensions to employment law.
It’s for these reasons that Aberdein Considine recently joined forces with agent Darren Walker to ensure that players can receive the best legal and financial guidance at all stages of their career.
Furthermore, given all of the new regulations involved, and with over 20 years’ experience between us, Darren and I will be holding a course how to become an agent.
The initial course will be a taster and will be held later this year (watch this space for further details!), with courses arranged later on how to prepare for and pass the exams.
Whilst we know that football is increasingly a business, players and coaches remain at its very heart.
For most of us, we won’t be the next Messi or Ronaldo.
But as professional agents, you can protect and support those who just might be.
Robert Holland is head of employment law at Aberdein Considine