Interview with a Vampire

March 12, 2012 7 Comments by Sian

I’m aware we have a huge game later on today. Though giving games sizes quite annoys me. Will the pitch balloon? The ball double in size? The players shoot up like sunflowers? No they will not. It is an average-sized game with a lot of importance attached to it. Better. And since all but Chelsea’s results went our way this weekend, you’d be a fool to assume we’ll ease our way through tonight’s clash with Newcastle – but we can hope and pray that our fellas replicate last week’s performance against Milan. Surely if we do that, we will be sweet.

Anyway, today’s blog (after the pointy lines) comes from FunGunner, who met with that most maligned of humans – The Agent – to bring us the interview that follows. It’s an interesting read and given the weekend’s stories about van Persie choosing to hop off to the most depressing city in the world for £200,000 a week, it seems quite relevant too. The agent will remain nameless, largely because I don’t know his name, but hopefully you will enjoy it. If you have any further questions you’d like answered, you can leave them in the comments or contact the site via the contact button (oddly enough) at the top of the page. Anyway, here it is. All work after the following pointy lines (what ARE those little beasts?) is that of FunGunner and I am not trying to take credit for it in any way at all. Thanks for sending this, FunGunner!

^^^

How long have you been an agent?

14 years. I got my licence by the time I was 18 years of age. There are about 400-500 agents working in the UK.

Do you have clients working in the Premier League? The Championship? Any foreign leagues?

All of the above. I have players working in Ukraine, Denmark, Italy and Russia as well as the English leagues.

Have you had any dealings with Arsenal?

A long time ago, I tried to get a young Brazilian player into Arsenal. We had talks but Wenger was not interested.

Why did you become an agent? How did you get started and what qualifications did you need, if any?

I played as a semi-professional briefly. A lot of my friends played and I knew an agent. I used to work for him as well. At that time young players had no-one to represent them and no advice when they were released from big clubs. I saw a niche in the market. I worked for other people for about 10 years, then formed my own company. I still represent the player who was my first client. You don’t need qualifications as such. I had to learn all the FIFA rules and regulations for agents. The ethical standards are included in those. And you had to post a bond of £30,000 for a domestic licence (to work in the UK only) rising to £100,000 for a worldwide licence. Nowadays you don’t need to put up the money, you just get indemnity insurance. The market is saturated as a result. There are a lot of agents around who don’t know what they’re doing and haven’t previously been involved in football. To advise your clients when they’re not doing well, to manage their career properly, you need a network of contacts in football circles and experience of the game. There is a professional association but it’s not particularly important and you don’t have to belong. They have get-togethers but I don’t go to them.

How do you see your job? What is the most important part of it?

The most important part is guiding a player’s career. It’s a short career and the wrong decision can ruin it. The player’s career is harmed and my relationship with him is over. So I have to get it right. Sometimes it can involve being honest and clear with a player, managing his expectations of what he can earn and who will employ him.

Does it help your career if you are intelligent?

Not necessarily. The main thing is your football talent. Being intelligent helps with making decisions.

What is your relationship with your clients? Friend? Mentor? Career adviser?

A career adviser. For the young players I take on I am more of a mentor. They always want a second opinion about how they played in the last game, for example.  I offer guidance. With the older players, who have been my clients for years, I am more of a friend.

What motivates you? What gets you out of bed every morning?

Football – I love football, I love my job and I feel lucky to be doing it. And I am always hoping to discover the next Oxlade-Chamberlain, the next Walcott.

Fans often don’t understand how agents can be brokering deals on behalf of clubs as well as their players – can you explain what happens?

Sometimes I will find out through my contacts that a player would like to move, or I hear that a club is looking for a particular player or type of player. Then I would contact the club with the player and alert the other one. If they want to make an agreement, I would negotiate the deal between the two clubs and take a percentage of the fee on that. But you never work for a club and your client in the same deal, as that would be a conflict of interest. In a deal that I have brokered between two clubs, the player’s agent will negotiate the contract between the buying the club and the player.

Transfers – what is the process? Who holds the power?

It can start with an agent putting the two clubs together, or the player’s own agent contacting another club. Then, not necessarily always in the same order, the buying and selling club agree a fee and the player agrees a new contract with the new club. Most of the time, the playing contract is the last thing you sort out, but if the clubs are 99% sure they are going to agree a deal, but haven’t agreed exact figures or terms yet, the selling club will often give permission for the player to talk to the buying club and sort out his contract, to save time. This happened with Gary Cahill – a fee hadn’t been agreed but Bolton allowed him to sort out his playing contract with Chelsea anyway. If the player talked to the new club without permission or behind his club’s back, it would be a very serious matter. As to who holds the most power, it’s the player. If the player wants to move, he’ll move. If he doesn’t want to, he won’t.

Why do transfers break down?

When you’re negotiating a transfer it’s not like going out to buy a Ferrari – you’re dealing with human beings. Everybody has to be happy. Another club can jump in when they hear that the player is up for sale and make an offer which blows the first one out of the water. They might hear about it on the grapevine but sometimes, if you think you could get a better deal or club for your client, you might try to get another club interested. It’s very, very rare that a transfer fails because of a relatively small amount of money. If everybody wants the deal they will try to make it happen.

What are the reasons players want to move?

Money is important – it’s a short career and players have to make sure that they will have enough money to maintain a good lifestyle and meet their commitments when they retire – they aren’t all going to become TV pundits or open sports goods stores. But what players are mostly concerned with is their career development. They want playing time. Most will happily take a salary cut if they can go to a bigger or more ambitious club.  They want trophies, to play for the big clubs, to play with and against the top players.

Location of the clubs matters a lot as well – I have a client working abroad who is desperate to come to London because he wants his kids to go to school in England. Or even players working in the PL might ask me to see if I can get them a move to a London club.

And why might a footballer not want a move?

Another reason that proposed transfers can fail to happen is because of family. As a professional footballer you are always uprooting your family. So if your partner doesn’t want to move, you might not. Or if the move would take you too far from your family support network, you might reject it for that reason. Family can be a massive factor. But having said that, footballers accept that moving frequently is part of the job.  It also could be that they don’t think get enough playing time.

How do clubs value their players for sale?

Good question. Some prices are unimaginable. Like Carroll. It really depends on the time of year and the interest in the player, and whether they think the buying club is desperate.

Apart from arranging transfers, what do you do all day?

The windows can be busy although the last one (January) wasn’t! It depends who is moving. In general I am managing my clients. I advise the young ones about whether they need to go on loan. I also might look on behalf of a club see who’s available (not one of my clients) to take on loan. Plus I do A LOT of scouting. Everyone is looking for the next big thing. When a young star comes through lots of agents will be vying for his signature.

There are rumours about “highest paid player” clauses in contracts – does this happen?

It does happen. I would say it would be a good thing to negotiate in the contract of a star player. If someone comes in on a higher wage, his wage goes up as well. Players can be very conscious of how much others are paid, but it depends on the individual. Sometimes a player will ask for more money because someone else is getting more. I might say to him, be realistic and look at the big picture, or I might try and get more money for him in which case it depends on how much the club values him as to whether they agree to renegotiate. But with a lot of players, the most important thing is whether they’re generally happy or not.

Money – has it ruined the game?

No. It’s made it better. Money has brought the best players to the PL. Man City’s owners have upset the old order and made it more exciting. Before it used to be like the Scottish or Spanish leagues – the same one or two clubs winning the league year after year. QPR have got rich owners now as well. It’s made the league less predictable.

How do you spot potential new clients?

By watching games, or word of mouth.

How are Arsenal viewed amongst agents?

They have no reputation for anything in particular. They’re like everyone else – if you’ve got something they want, they will talk to you, if you don’t, they don’t want to know.

 

 

7 Comments

  1. Daniel
    1990 days ago

    Great work FunGunner and Sian!

    I’d like to know if this guy (or girl) knows of any agents who have spoken to the press, relaying information that was part of private conversations they have had with their client. ie. “My client wants to move to Barcelona, he is unsettled in England.”

    Have these infuriated the player or were they in on it, happy to have the news banded about? Has any player dumped an agent as a reesult of this kind of behaviour?

    Cheers :)

    Now I focus on tonight’s MONUMENTAL game ;)

    Reply

    • FunGunner
      1989 days ago

      Cheers Sian and thanks Daniel for the question. I’ve made a note of it.

      Reply

  2. irishgray
    1989 days ago

    SIan – You sneaky little so’n'so!!! Was not expecting you to have a post up, especially one from my girl FunGunner! Very interesting by the way FG. I liked how straight forward it was, just somebody doing there job that’s all. Nothing special in that except for the fact he HAS to watch as much footie as possible, lucky bastard :) and as the interviewee said, they love football and it is football that motivates them. Like I said lucky to be doing something they love.

    Daniel – Good question and something I believe I have heard has happened over the years.

    FunGunner – I would also like to know if there are any players that, no matter how good or famous they are, they are so difficult to work with no agent wants anything to do with them?

    Reply

    • FunGunner
      1989 days ago

      Thanks for the question, Irish – it’s gone on the list!

      Reply

    • Sian
      1988 days ago

      Ooooh, good question IG!

      Reply

  3. 1NilToTheArsenal
    1989 days ago

    This was something quite special and providing interesting insight into an aspect of footie than supporters always discuss but few understand – thanks.
    Questions:
    1. I’m sure it depends on several factors, but what are typical fee percentages?
    2. Sounds like there’s an association, but no regulatory body for agents in Europe. What is the possibility of that happening, and how would that affect the game.

    Great work, keep it up!

    Oh and…2-1, TV15 goes from the being goat to the hero yet again!
    YES! A point behind 3rd and closing fast. COYG COY COYG!!!

    Reply

    • FunGunner
      1988 days ago

      Hi, 1Nil
      Thanks – and your question has been noted.

      Reply

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