In recent years, football agents have been looked upon with enormous amounts of suspicion and negativity. The public perception of agents is largely shaped by the media, and with reports of Premier League club’s parting ways with tens of millions of pounds in agent’s fees each year, it is perhaps easy to see why the average football fan sees agents as unnecessary nuisances.
Indeed, there have been a number of characters over the years who have given agents a bad name. Ugly, drawn out legal battles between players and agents tarnish the collective reputation of those agents who are in fact a real asset to their clients and go about their business in the right way, according to the letter of the law.
The FA, acutely aware of the issues smearing the agent’s trade, has acted to protect the interests of players and clubs by introducing increasingly stringent levels of regulation. Until recently, it was possible for almost anyone to represent a professional footballer. Parents, brothers, friends, whatever the relationship to the player, there were no official regulations in place prohibiting someone representing a player in contract negotiations with professional clubs. The FA decided that this had to stop, and in March 2001, the Players’ Agents’ Regulations came into force.
The regulations make it harder for the average Joe to obtain a license required to officially represent players. If you have a clean criminal record, the funds available to pay a registration fee, the ability to secure insurance and the intelligence to pass a multiple choice exam (with a meagre pass rate of 10% it must be added), then you are well on your way to becoming a player’s agent. The FA does not make it easy however. For example, if you fail the exam, you are prohibited from entering again for a further 12 months, seriously stalling your attempts to follow a new career in football. Additionally, recruiting players of course is another ball game altogether and comes with no guarantee whether you have an agent’s license or not.
What the regulations aim to ensure, is that the cowboy nature of football agents is eradicated. If the public can see that a concerted effort is being made by football’s governing body and that laws are being implemented in order to make the agent’s trade a more reputable one, then it may be possible for the industry to turn its bad reputation around. With the astronomical figures that fly around football today, the career of a football agent can be a lucrative one and one that can and indeed must be carried out with good intentions and an honest work ethic. Without regulation and without the cooperation of agents to abide by them, the agent’s name will continue to be dragged through the mud.