When the words “Football” and “Agent” are put next to each other it conjures up images of a pair of sunglasses, a well-tailored suit, an expensive watch, and a top of the range car. It also makes you think of dodgy dealings, bungs, and a shady underbelly to the contrasting nature of the glitz and glam of football. The term Agent is one people are used to associating with that very underbelly.
Agents – A brief history
Before the 1980s and 1990s, most footballers didn’t use agents, instead opting to use family members such as their Father.
This was a double-edged sword.
A Father would naturally look for the best option for their son, who has now become their client, giving them a sense of security that negotiations wouldn’t go south without the player’s best interests at heart.
The issue with this is that most Dads were naïve about the football industry; they watched it and probably shouted about it multiple times throughout a week, but negotiating contracts is an entirely different mistress, ultimately landing contracts with lower salaries than players thought they deserved.
Agents are designated as a leading factor behind the massive rise in wages and fees in transfer negotiations and contracts in the past decade.
It is estimated that football’s top five “super agents” – Jorge Mendes, Mino Raiola, Jonathan Barnett, Fernando Felicevich and Kia Joorabchian – received more than £200million from fees and commission in 2017 alone, with a group of players under their control worth £2billion. With this money, there has come many allegations and even fines: Joorabchian was notorious for his role in the third-party ownership of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano that put a minor dark cloud over West Ham’s Premier League survival in 2006-2007, which landed them a record £5.5million fine.
The licensing system for Football Agents was scrapped on 1st April 2015, the English FA replaced it with the concept of Intermediaries in accordance with FIFA regulations that define how to work with Intermediaries.
According to FIFA, there are now over 5,000 licenced association Intermediaries worldwide, and since 2001, FIFA do not directly issue licences; that is handled by associations (like the English FA) directly.
Agent seems to be a word that is quickly diminishing from football, or more associated with the old guard. Since football’s governing bodies put in new regulations regarding Agents, these positions have been referred to as “Intermediary” roles, which may be an attempt to rebrand what can, and should, be an honest and frank profession, while maintaining the hard-work that goes on behind the scenes.
So, in effect, Intermediary has only been a term that has become familiar in football in the last three years, since the inception of it as a concept, which is where the conclusion of Agents being rebranded has stemmed.
Gregory Ioannidis (@LawTop20 on Twitter), a leading Sports Lawyer, stated that the correct term is now Intermediary. They both essentially mean the same thing, and with the term Agent holding so much history, it is likely people will continue to use it due to its notoriety and connection with so many dealings that have happened in football down the years.