The A to Z Of Modern Football : A is for Agent
What is the place of the player agent in football? Today on the blog Greg Theoharis of Dispatches From A Football Sofa begins his A to Z of the Football Landscape series, looking at the role of agents.
There’s not a lot of love out there for creatures of the parasitic variety. They’re commonly perceived to be suckers of blood and other matter, gorging themselves on the detritus their hosts no longer have use for. However much we may deem them a vulgar irritant though, they rightly or wrongly form an integral part of how life on earth functions. In that respect then, modern football is beholden and seemingly reliant on the existence of the football agent.
Agent. A gent. Gentleman. Gentle man. If the standard personification of agents is anything to be believed, these people are anything but. The agent became a recognisable ‘presence’ sometime in the nineties when Eric Hall became ubiquitous with that blood-curdling catchphrase ‘monster’ whilst sucking on cigars that would have had the rollers of Havana working obscene hours in their shanty towns to accommodate his brashly unapologetic Thatcherite public persona.
In hindsight though, Hall was nothing but a grossly overblown caricature of what a football agent should be. There were far more insidious individuals out there who were willing to engineer deals for their clients that would hold employers to ransom with ridiculous demands and ultimately shred any sense of delusional belief that club loyalty actually meant something. Take a bow, Sky Andrew. I’m a Spurs fan and even after all these years the duplicity of his client Sol Campbell’s free transfer across the green zone of North London still rankles.
What exactly do these people do though? I’ve often asked myself the same questions about wasps and mosquitoes. They are present in all walks of life whether that be football, real estate or acting, serving the function of ‘go-between’ and for that, they are entitled to a cut of the deal that eventually is agreed upon between two parties. In essence, they ferry messages to and from people like the slightly snotty and eager to please class fink at school who’s desperate to please the more popular kids. Whatever happened to just having a chat and seeing what agreement you can come to in an amicable fashion?
Granted, that may be a little naïve. Clubs traditionally could have been likened to the Victorian factory, where labour was exploited for its cheapness and volume. That’s why trade unions were formed to act in the best interests of the workforce.
This is not 1926 though and we live in far more individualistic times. The Bosman Ruling changed how footballers would manage themselves forever. Once power rested with them and their representatives, the role of the club as an institution all but ceased to exist. Agents, not football clubs own players now. And if everybody’s out for themselves, does the romantic notion of football being a team sport become increasingly redundant? The day will surely come when we support players rather than teams and agents will happily count the profits.
Parasites are needed though. What would Sky Sports News do on Transfer Deadline Day without agents? As for the rest of us, I recommend investing in a decent insect repellent.
Follow Greg on Twitter: @Sofalife
And read more of his work on his blog DispatchesFromAFootballSofa.com