The footballing world is, without a doubt, a game of power. But have you ever wondered who holds the most power in football? Owners have the most money, players are the most popular and managers and the biggest authority figures. But none of them even come close to the power held by the people behind the scenes – the agents.
But what is a football agent? That’s exactly what we’ll cover in this blog. In addition to their duties, we’ll also highlight the positive and negative impacts these cheeky lads have had on the sport. To top things off, we’ll discuss how to become a football agent and whether it’s a glamorous career or not.
What Does a Football Agent Do?
In its most basic form, the role of a football agent involves representing players in conversations with the team. Since football, unlike American sports, mostly has short-term contracts, agents play a much bigger role.
Nowhere is this more apparent than during contract negotiations. If a player is looking for an extension, amendment or waiver, he will relay his wishes to the agent, who will then talk to the team. Therefore, the agent is a legal representative here. His words are considered an ‘echo’ of the player’s intentions and demands. But nowadays, agents have become much more than mere representatives when players want a bigger salary. They also handle the following:
In the world of football, it’s in the players’ best interest to have a clean image. This involves saying and doing the right things when dealing with the media, in addition to behaviour off the pitch. An agent will help them with all of this. For instance, when a player is involved in a scandal, his agent communicates with the public and often even writes the player’s statements.
Also, there’s the underrated benefit of absorbing outrage from fans and the media. Whenever Mino Raiola (RIP) told the British press Pogba wanted out of Manchester United, he was the target of all the negativity. So, in a way, agents say things the players might catch flack for saying themselves.
When a footballer is without a club, teams will come to his agent with offers. The same goes for brands who want to sponsor the lads. Companies contact the agent, tell them their offers, and he then negotiates every single detail until both sides are happy or one gives up.
This particular service requires the agent to have extensive knowledge about different markets and niches. If a player named John Smith is approached by Energy Drink X, his agent must know whether the brand is stable, where it is popular and what are the future earnings prospects.
Bonds between agents and footballers are more than just business. It’s inevitable when you trust someone to be responsible for the size of your salary. For this reason, some agents also handle the money long after the contract has been signed.
They will look for new investments, pay taxes for their clients and even make purchases. While it’s more convenient to have one person manage everything, this leaves players vulnerable. That’s why you often hear of players losing everything because of bad investments or agents stealing the money.
How Much Do Football Agents Earn?
First and foremost, there’s no way to cover the entire profession with a single number. The big names, like Jorge Mendes and Pini Zahavi, earn tens of millions each year. However, the sad reality is that most agents don’t earn that much, despite all the fanfare that comes with the profession.
Not every football agent spends his days with a martini by the pool. The profession allows for this disparity because of its unique payment system – in percentages. An agent will receive 3-15% of the player’s total contract value and 10-20% of endorsement deals and other career-related earnings.
So, a 5% commission is not the same for Messi’s agent and the agent of a 3rd-choice goalkeeper in a National League squad. This system effectively ties the agent’s success to the success of their clients. The bigger the contract, the bigger the cut.
Agent Fees – Where the Real Money Is
The percentage-based system is the reality for most agents. For the biggest ones, however, agent fees are their main source of income. As strange as it sounds, there’s no standard definition of what these fees actually are. Basically, it’s a lump sum the agent is given by the club once the contract is signed.
A famous example is Manchester City signing Erling Haaland. They paid £34 million in agent fees alone, split between Mino Raiola and Haaland’s father. This prompted outrage and the formation of a FIFA council to look into possible restrictions.
However, experts believe this will barely put a dent in the biggest agencies and their earnings. Even in top European leagues, most of these dealings are done under the table and don’t appear on the balance sheet.
Does Every Player Have an Agent?
Believe it or not, most footballers aren’t officially represented by anyone. They don’t need an agent since contracts at the amateur, and semi-professional levels are fairly straightforward. Most of the time, it just defines basic duties and the amount paid per match. Things are simple enough for players to negotiate themselves.
What about the upper tiers of professional football? At this level, it’s very rare to see a player without an agent. These are mostly footballers who are content with just receiving their salary. They’re not interested in sponsorships, brand management and other things athletes deal with. But when they need to negotiate a new contract, they’ll hire an advisor or a temporary representative.
More rarely, an agent isn’t needed if a player has been at the club for a long time. It’s very rare to see such loyalty at the top level. In this case, the negotiations are just a formality, and both sides are willing to make give the other what it wants.
How Do You Become a Football Agent?
Contrary to popular belief, there are no difficult requirements people need to fulfil in order to become agents. You just need to obtain a license from the Football Association. To do so, you have to:
- Be 18 or older
- Pass a test of good character
- Pay a £500 registration fee
Basically, any adult with some savings that passes a test can become an agent. Even though this sounds pretty straightforward, it’s just the beginning of the process. Having an FA Football Agent’s license won’t put you on the map or have clients calling. Instead, there are several things you must do before you become a successful agent.
Study Contract Law
This is mandatory for every football agent and is the bare minimum required to do the job. When players sign contracts, they are legally binding. Therefore, agents must know the implications of everything in the document. Whether it’s non-guaranteed earnings, conditions, rules or anything else – it’s you who must know what’s legal and illegal.
After all, agents are responsible if things go wrong for the player. Footballers listen to their representatives’ advice, so they must be well-versed in contract law in order to make decisions. For this reason, many agents went to law school or were actually barristers before entering the football business.
According to many, networking is the backbone of this entire profession. Being a successful agent relies on who you know, how fast you can reach them and whether they’re willing to listen to what they have to say. This helps in acquiring new clients, finding new clubs for the players and establishing various business relationships.
In a way, networking is the art of making a good impression. If you deal with a club multiple times and develop a relationship, you’ll offload a player to them more easily. And happy clients will recommend you to their teammates.
An easy way to begin is to ask clubs if they need a scout or analyst. Those in lower tiers may let you volunteer. This allows you to meet players and club employees and experience how the industry works first-hand.
Start from the Bottom
Unless your mate in the Chelsea academy or your brother is playing for the Boro U-18s, don’t expect hotshot clients. A large majority of agents begin their careers in the lower ranks of the football pyramid. This often involves contacting players personally. As we said, you can get a job at a club and develop relationships with players.
Most of the time, lads aren’t represented by anyone. Then, it’s all about your relationships with players. And it won’t always be easy. There will be situations when an underperforming client is asking for a big pay rise, and you’ll have to tell him no. Remember, your only goal is to help your client sign lucrative contracts and have a long career. Always act in their best interest, even if they themselves are not.
Why Is Every Football Player’s Agent a Family Member?
You’ve probably heard about Mbappe’s parents or Adrien Rabiot’s mother in the press. In reality, there are many such cases in the football world. While fans and clubs generally have a bad opinion of this phenomenon, there are good reasons why it’s so common:
Agents are responsible not just for millions of pounds, but for the way the player’s entire career develops. Putting this responsibility in the hands of a family member is by far the safest option. You know your parents or older brother won’t swindle you, unlike a guy in a suit who sees you just as a source of income.
2. Lack of Objections
Sometimes, footballers want their wishes fulfilled, despite the ramifications. Agents have a duty to act in their client’s best interest, which often leads to disagreements. The line, however, is blurred when the agent is a family member. They’re more likely to indulge the players’ wishes and fail to tell him ‘no’ when needed.
3. Financial Incentive
Agents will ask for a fixed percentage of the player’s salary, plus other fees and bonuses. To avoid this, footballers choose to ‘keep it in the family.’ Instead of paying someone they don’t know, they can save a bit since they’d end up sharing the money with their loved ones anyway.
Unfortunately, this rarely works out. The few times it does, it’s because a player is talented enough that he doesn’t need to negotiate. Mbappe’s parents knew that PSG was willing to give their son everything, so it wasn’t a do-or-die situation. 99% of the time, players rely on biased advice from people with no legal training whose motives are often questionable. This also leaves athletes vulnerable to being controlled by their family members.
Tips on How to Get Clients as a New Agent
Finding new clients is the hardest part of being an agent. Unlike in traditional jobs, inexperienced individuals don’t have a path they can follow. However, there are a few things you can do to expand your network of players:
Meet Them in Casual Environments
Many big agents, such as Mino Raiola, first become friends with their clients and earn their trust. This is very important, as it lets them see you as a real person and not someone they pay to represent them.
Do Your Job Properly
If your player’s next contract is 500% bigger because of your negotiating skills, people will notice. There’s no better advertisement than a satisfied client. If you make a habit of this, footballers will approach you to be their agent.
Take Risks with Unproven Players
Use your scouting skills to find players that have a chance of making it. While there’s no way to know for sure, this is your best chance of moving up the ladder. You won’t be able to get stars right away, but being patient pays offs. Not only will you get to watch your clients develop, but you’ll also practice your craft and gain valuable contacts within the industry.