Nice work if you can get it

Football Agents fees could become a hot topic in these recessionary times. If they don’t, they should. Bankers are under the spotlight and surely their sporting namesakes (apply your own asterisk) should also be so. Nobody seems to be able to explain why they are quite as well paid as it would seem.

Perhaps it’s not fair to launch headlong into every single football agent. As usual, it is probably a minority spoiling the reputation of the majority. But Leeds United has been bitten in the past most notably by Bernie Mandic who was Harry Kewell’s agent taking £2 million out of £5 milion for Kewell’s transfer to Liverpool.

So with clubs like Manchester City lashing out £13 million, what do these people actually do for the money? On the plus side, I know at least one agent personally. (He might have given it up by now actually.) He landed me with the job of translating the CV’s of a couple of Cameroon players from French into English, unpaid naturally! He is one of life’s genuinely nice guys and like the rest of us was more concerned with making a living than making a million. Basically he was just looking to get young gifted footballers into clubs that could nurture their talent. He had to be almost a father figure to these lads arranging everything they needed to pass an interview in a foreign country. I doubt very much that he will have made much money, if any. Yet here was a man with an eye for a footballer. At the time, the promising youngster in Leeds’ ranks was Aaron Lennon. I was actually forewarned that there was an even better, younger lad on the way through the academy and that is who we now know to be Fabian Delph. I haven’t seen him for a few years since I moved away from Leeds, but if I get any more hot tips, I’ll let you know!

But then there are the agents such as those exposed on the BBC Panorama programme in 2006 who really represent the seedy underbelly of football. It is quite easy for us outsiders to imagine how the rarified atmosphere of Bentley convertibles and Bling creates an old boys’ network. Although for Rooney, Gerrard and co I’m sure it’ll be more like a “me old muckers’ network”. Why wouldn’t a successful player do his best for an old friend or an early business acquaintance? After all, the club is paying somehow. I took a look at the regulations for becoming a football agent. I’m not surprised that these people get into the game. Granted, I only looked at the quick guide, but there is not so much as a mention of qualifications or direct experience.

Surely this is the pivotal failing of the whole agent system. If I was buying a house, I would want legal advice from a person with legal training. I wouldn’t ask a friend of a builder because he knew a bit about bricks. The FA advise players and agents to take legal advice about contactual matters, but surely that’s the least that should be EXPECTED of an agent’s abilities? The whole buzzword about signing a player is always ‘contract’. How much, how long etc? For an agent not to be able to sort that, to me is a joke.

Or perhaps it’s another indication of how many things the regulators of the respective football leagues get wrong. Once we actually get a clear set of rules to govern everything outside that big green rectangle, then perhaps we will be a little bit closer to getting the ‘hangers-on’ out of our game.