Every transfer window, there is a lot of talk on social media and in the press about the role of agents in football, with many of them attracting controversy for apparently blocking deals, feeding false news to journalists to get their client’s name in the public eye, or for simply being too greedy.
We all know the stereotypes, but are all agents really that bad?
We only seem to hear about the bad agents poisoning the industry with the worst elements of capitalistic greed, but what about all of the hard-working men and women who genuinely want to improve the game and have their clients’ best interests at heart?
Football agent Joe Carr spoke to 90min about why he thinks his profession gets a bad rap.
Joe looks after the next generation of young talent across Europe and has had dealings with many clubs in England, including the Premier League big boys. He highly respected in the business and is keen to fight back against the criticism agents face on a regular basis.
“I think there are lots of reasons why agents are portrayed so badly,” he says.”You always hear negative stories about agents and as with anything in life, it’s the bad that spreads further and faster before anything else.
“In so many walks of life, when there’s an issue and a particular group is named, then everyone in that group is tarred with the same brush and it’s no different with agents. There’s also the perception that agents take money out the game which comes, for me, comes down to interpretation and understanding the objectives of an agent’s role – particularly when working with younger players.”
The hard work that agents do for their players often goes unnoticed, particularly by the media, with agents’ fees and ridiculous demands often grabbing the headlines. While he concedes that this criticism is fair in some cases, Carr is also keen to stress that a lot of agents work hard to provide the best service to their clients.
“In some cases, the criticism is fair. But in other cases, it isn’t. Working with young players, it’s very normal to find yourself forking out on travel expenses, accommodation and football boots – to name a few things – and some players are more dependent than others. But it’s these areas behind closed doors in the development of a young player and/or person that the fans don’t see,” Carr explains passionately.
“You have to support your client on and off the field 24/7. Clubs benefit from the same ethos, everyone has to work from the same page. Players need to be surrounded by people who can do the very best for them and in most cases, this is through the relationships of clubs and agents.
“The focus on youth is the key and with the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP – the Premier League’s long-term youth development plan) in place, players need educated representatives by their side. It’s in this phase of a player’s foundation where agents can play a key role in the whole process for players and their families, by offering time with everything from knowledge, support and, most importantly, by making the best move happen.
“The thing that gets unnoticed the most is the support and advice that’s been given to the player to help him get from a young prospect to a seasoned professional, where the fans know exactly who he is and want him in their team week in, week out.
“You speak to any of the top players in world football and every single one of them will say just how much their agent has done for them, there’s years of work that has gone in to this – all the best agents are there 24/7 for their client, not just once in a blue moon to do a deal and jet off back to the south of France.
“It’s lots of time on the motorway, lots of time at games, meeting clubs, scouts, players, families, brands, media and other agents – all to increase what you can offer for your client and company. Like with every business, you need a good foundation. You need to be transparent, work hard and put your clients first. If you do all these things, you can do very well.”
Many would love to see more transparency between fans and agents, so fans can have a clearer understanding of exactly what it is that agents do. While Carr agrees, he doesn’t think it will happen any time soon.
“Agents and fans are so vital to the game as we see it today and in an ideal world it would be nice, but sadly I don’t think we’ll see that transparency.
“Agents are here to act on behalf of our clients and relationships between the fans and agents are never going to last. Players want to move and agents have to take the lead on facilitating the best move possible for that stage in his or her client’s career.
“It’s a cut throat business and if you can’t make a move happen then someone else will, the agent will always be the bad guy to the fans of a parting club.
“The most important thing is to keep relationships with the clubs and make sure business is done as transparently as possible with your clients’ best interests at heart, the rest will be left to press interpretation, I suppose.”