The statement – “Are agents good or bad for the players and the game as a whole” first came up for me way back in 1980 when I had been just been given the job as coach to the Atlanta Chiefs in the North American Soccer League and the debate is still rearing its ugly conversational head on a regular basis.
Mixed opinion is widely spread across the whole of the football world!
Now if I was a player today I think I would have a positive approach towards agents as there is no doubt on occasions they create opportunities or make more money for players.
But if I was a Manager I have to say I would, without doubt prefer to deal with the player directly and leave the agent sitting outside the office!
Supporters I believe are like pundits, journalists and hacks that have little time for them as most see them as leeches just taking from the game and pushing up the prices to unbelievable levels.
At the National League level where we operate nearly all players have an agent, so both Jay and I and of course Terry have had to become used to dealing with them.
Personally, I do believe that professional footballers need professional advice. However, at the same time I don’t believe that they ever need amateur opinions. Whilst I believe in some cases agents are responsible for badly advising their clients and should be held accountable for this advice, it is reasonable to say that not all agents undertake such practises, whether the advice is innocent advice that may have been well intentioned or unqualified bad advice or advice with an ulterior motive.
But as a general rule I do believe that most agents try to safeguard the best interest of their clients.
What I do disagree with and feel doesn’t help our game at all is the fact that today almost anyone can become a football agent. You just need to register with the Football Association, take a multi-selection exam, get yourself insured then out you go searching for the next Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar!
So what percentages of agents in this country can firstly, see talent in a young player and then secondly advise him throughout his development if they have had no background in football, let alone ever played the game, not many I would suggest.
It’s a bit like me taking a three week exam on electrical engineering and actually picking up the tools! I’d have no idea at all as to where to start.
So to conclude: My experience of agents over the past thirty seven years has been some good, but mostly bad and today I take each encounter on a very individual basis and judge them as I find them. But the jury is still out and it is I believe for most folks still a bit like the old marmite or anchovy comparison, you either like them or you don’t and I think it’s going to stay that way for a very, very long time yet.