SIMON JORDAN: It’s about time football fought back against its agents of evil… but it’s PREPOSTEROUS that we are separating the good in the game from the bad with exams akin to 11-plus
- The role of agents is being scrutinised as football looks to take back control
- READ AGENT VIEW: It was a hard exam and I will be a borderline pass or fail
- READ MORE: Hundreds descend on London’s ExCel centre to sit FIFA exam
Football has finally woken up to the fact agents are troublesome and far too costly to the game – but I’m not sure the solution is a series of examinations akin to the 11-plus which they had to take recently.
From the introduction of the Bosman ruling in the 90s to the inception of transfer windows and the deregulation of agents, football turned into something for agents that it was never intended to be.
It’s the law of unintended consequences.
Rather than more restrictions, governance and controls placed on agents, each one of these circumstances opened the door to more opportunities for them to game the system and be part of something that does very little for the good of the game. As the money got bigger and bigger, football’s ridiculous response was to have less and less control.
Once the industry was de-regulated in 2015, agents were, inexplicably, able to represent all sides of a deal. Rather than being permitted to represent one client – player, buying club or selling club – for reasons best known to those that supposedly police the well-being of the game, it was decided they could represent all three at the same time in the same transaction. And nobody thought that would bring about a conflict of interest!
Hundreds of football agents pictured leaving their FIFA exam earlier this month. They agents and intermediaries must pass the exam in order to continue operating in the game
Football has woken up to the work of agents and is now putting more measures in place
There is a school of thought, one that I more often than not subscribe to, that agents are at the centre of most of the wrongdoings in the game. From corruption through to solicitation and the division between clubs and players that they themselves created. I could produce lists as long as the Magna Carta of examples.
When I was a football club owner, I had major reservations about dealing with agents. I questioned why I had to pay them when they were representing their client in negotiations. Players want their agent to negotiate a better deal for them, better than they would have been able to get themselves and then the club has to pay the agent for the privilege! It made no sense to me. The player not the club, should be stumping up.
Early in my tenure I referred to them as divisive scum, but I’ve moved past my Angela Rayner moment and prefer to consider them an unnecessary evil that, more often than not, serves no greater good. I don’t believe football agency is a legitimate profession at times. If it were, like in every other profession, it would get its client – the player – to pay its fees as in any other industry.
Yes there are good agents who are professional and work for the betterment of the game and themselves, but the fact I can name them on one hand tells you all you need to know.
Mail Sport columnist Simon Jordan is, however, unsure if a FIFA exam is the best way to separate good agents from bad
In my time I had agents offer clients at reduced salaries if I paid them £100,000. I had one who made various threats after an altercation between my manager and his player, resulting in the agent phoning me to tell me the matter would be closed if I paid the players’ contract up and paid him £50,000. I had young players go away on Under-17 international duty only to find agents and fathers of their team-mates had tapped them up.
I had leading agents lie about having mandates to sell my best player and seeking to backdoor me through my manager. I experienced threats designed to create division between club and player at contract renewal stage. I was once even offered the opportunity and funding to buy Gabriel Heinze from Manchester United with the sole purpose of flipping him on to Liverpool because United refused to sell a player directly to their great rivals. I could go on and on…
Agents are the only part of the industry that doesn’t pay to be there, that doesn’t put anything back into football. They will argue that they scout players but that’s a myth They have polluted the economic system of making transfer deals by offering artificial inducements to parents or managers. Trust me, it happens.
The five major parts of football are owners, clubs, players, fans and broadcasters. Owners buy and bankroll clubs, broadcasters pay huge rights fees, fans buy tickets and merchandise, clubs pay 3 per cent levies on transfers and gate receipts, players and managers even pay union fees and what do the agents pay to be involved? Nothing.
At times they are simply flesh-traders and I refused to deal with them. I was a bit like King Canute standing in front of the sea, demanding the tide went back. If you’re the only person in the room with integrity though, you’ve got a problem because you’re on your own.
How have we allowed agents, one of the biggest beneficiaries of football, to have had a free hand to do precisely what they want for years? They’ve been given a free run and unfettered access to football’s biggest assets but add no value to the ecosystem.
The failure to properly regulate agents has led us to this point and the solution, after 20 years of allowing them to ride roughshod over the game, is an exam. It’s preposterous.
The FIFA exam comprised 20 multiple choice questions and has a pass score of 75 per cent
Transparency, accountability, deliverability and some form of governance have long been needed alongside capping and controlling what is being ripped out of the game economically. And while we’re at it, they should be made to pay a levy to fund grassroots football.
It was never envisaged £500millon a year would go out of the game and into the pockets of unregulated, uncontrolled and unsupervised agents. Is the best we can do to weed out bad agents, regain some control and rid the industry of this wild west mentality, an 11-plus exam?
The lack of governance and control is unfathomable in an industry that has gone from having a £304m TV deal in 1992 to the current deal which is £10billion over three seasons. We’ve had no control over this industry that has its tentacles firmly embedded in the game. They paid no membership fees, made no contribution to grassroots football and were simply allowed to prosper and divide.
Football needed to stop this before it became the problem that it is today.
It has taken far too long to introduce some form of governance. There has been profligacy in that has allowed agents to become so entrenched in the fabric of the game that we now have to have legal battles just to establish basic principles that should have been sorted 20 years ago.
Now a reckoning is coming because rather than think they’ve had a good run, agents will push back and fight against any new regulations.
It appears capping of fees and controls over how may parties can be represented are being re-introduced as football develops an appetite to right a wrong that’s been going on for too long.
About bloody time.
BRIGHTON FAILED TO SEIZE THE MOMENT
Brighton are a wonderfully well-positioned football club, built up by Tony Bloom but the odds are stacked against them.
The tragedy for clubs like Brighton – and previously Southampton who produced some excellent players and are now hovering above the trapdoor – is that Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final loss to Manchester United on penalties may have been their moment.
They may never get the chance to take that final step because, inevitably, they will be pillaged this summer.
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi rallied round a dejected Solly March (right) at Wembley
Bigger clubs are waiting to pinch their best players like Alexis Mac Allister and Moises Caicedo.
There are short term financial gains by selling your star players – as they have done with Marc Cucurella, Yves Bissouma and Leandro Trossard – but I fear they will lose out in the long term and may look back on Wembley as the high point of their inspiring rise from the ashes.
Listen to White and Jordan every weekday on talkSPORT from 10-1pm.
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