A lot of professional footballers, irrelevant of their age, level and experience believe that they should have an agent or legal representative.  The question of WHY is one thing but the question of WHO is just as important, if not more so.

Many are unaware of who can actually legally represent a professional footballer and this varies from country to country based on the regulation variations between the national associations. From our experience Chiron’s home association – The Football Association (of England), is one of the most comprehensive in that it allows for 4 categories of licensed representative:

  • Licensed Agent (of the home association)
  • Registered Lawyer
  • Registered Close Relation
  • Registered Overseas Agent

…… however, other national associations have their own categories and rules regarding legal representation.

So who should I Choose?

This is impossible to say as there are good and bad in all of the categories, as there are in all walks of life. Naturally we are biased as Licensed Agents in saying you should choose a licensed agent, but the crux of the matter is that whichever category a professional footballer selects it should be someone who the player believes is going to represent their best interests whether this be financially, emotionally, mentally, physically and ethically.

Licensed Agents themselves fall into separate camps with some taking the exam that was introduced in approximately 2006, and others being more established with industry experience but never having taken the exam. The crucial thing with agents is that most are focussed on this as a professional career and are subject to not only the rules and regulations of the Football Association but also FIFA and UEFA …… but that if it is their sole career they should remain focussed on the best interests of their footballing clients.

Registered Lawyers is an interesting area in terms of sporting representation and somewhat of a debating topic for me as a licensed agent and my professional associates from the legal professional. From my own experience many legal professionals argue that after many years of studying law and specialising in an area or areas of law why revert to being an agent, as the relative ‘headaches’ that come with agency work outside of typical contracts detract from a legal professional.

Many may argue that a legal professional effectively ‘doubling-up’ as a ‘licensed agent’ is just looking to supplement their client base in other legal areas whilst not necessarily comprehensively covering the agents expected responsibilities due to other commitments. HOWEVER, from first-hand experience we deal regularly with several registered lawyers who are also licensed agents and undertake their role as a ‘complete’ agent very comprehensively for the love of sport and the welfare of their clients.

Personally if I was a legal professional I very much doubt I would complicate my legal standing, qualifications and professional timetable with the somewhat unorthodox life of a ‘licensed agent’, a fact with which a lot of my legal contacts concur and find some of the somewhat perceived conflict-of-interests associated with sports agency work conflict with their ‘legal code’.

Many agents will have their own plethora of legal experts to support themselves and their sporting clients rather than a generalist approach, thus maintaining that the sporting client has the best and most cost effective protection of their interests.

Registered Close Relations (sometimes referred to as Free-RCRs) have what we believe to be an important role to play in football, in not only offering some protection from unlicensed intermediaries and unscrupulous elements in the game, but also the education and awareness of players and those most affected by their careers (whether successful or otherwise) …… their families.

Within certain genealogical and financial boundaries, a direct relation to a player can represent the interests of that player, whether this be a mother, father, brother etc. so long as this is not for profit (2012). There is no doubting that in the majority of cases the strongest bond in representing the best interests of a player will be with the family of the player and as such we recommend that at least during the initial stages of a player’s career the parents give due consideration to registering as RCRs for their children at the age of 16 through to probably 18. Not only does this give them a better understanding of the career in the long term but also wards of unwanted attentions of unlicensed intermediaries to a junior player.

However there may well come somewhat of a ‘watershed’ moment in a players career (e.g. first year professional contract, second year professional contract, or first transfer) where professional independent representation of the player is required. Sport can be an emotional environment, and no more so than when it comes to family, as quite reasonable people become emotionally swayed at non-critical times but make critical decisions that prove to be incorrect ….. even more so in regards to a professional career. This is not to say that the person(s) representing the player’s interests as an RCR is totally outcast or not able to make the right decisions but they can quite easily get carried away in the situation and thus incurring long term damage on an otherwise ‘fruitful’ career.

One example may be the case of a mother whose son is offered a longer term contract with a professional club at 19 many miles away from home but judges against it on the emotion ground of shall we say ‘apron strings’.

Another may be the case of an older brother representing a player who on being presented with what is perceived (by the brother/RCRs standards) a very lucrative contract offer and the player is persuaded to sign only later to find out that as a senior professional he is earning for the next 5 years a similar cumulative salary to a 2nd year professional.

Registered Overseas Agents are more evident in the jurisdiction of some football associations than they are in others, thankfully from our own point of view the English Football Association register overseas agents and look to regulate their activities.

It has been a long held myth that football agents are licensed by FIFA. Indirectly they are ‘licensed in line with the rules and regulations of FIFA, but not by FIFA’. Licensed agents are licensed by their home association and the subsequent rules and regulations of that Association (and FIFA).  However to operate in some countries an agent is required to have the permission of the home association to operate in that country, some national associations however do not require any such registration.

We are not able to question the regulations and licensing procedures of another national Football Association but every association will have its own procedures and licensing regulations for the agents to license. And on being licensed and then registered with another association they may be able to operate across international boundaries.

Needless to say we at Chiron do our utmost to maintain the licensing, rules and regulations of FIFA at all times along with that of the home association, and in the best interests of our clients, and we ‘expect’ others to do the same, although this is not always the case.

Is there another option ……..

Well a player can always represent themselves and there is nothing wrong with this, but when a player needs to concentrate on playing and or recovering from injury is it worth the stress and worry? ….. needless to say going back to the subject of RCR’s there is no one close to the situation when it comes down to negotiation than the player on primarily an emotional level.

AND FINALLY THE DREADED UNLICENSED INTERMEDIARY (formerly known as the unlicensed agent) ….. There is no turning a blind eye to this spectre’ any longer whether we want to or not.  They do exist, some are high profile and some remain in the shadows. The main risks for a player, club or even licensed agent in working with an unlicensed intermediary is that they are liable to action form the footballing authorities whether this be a fine or a ban ….. added to this there is no protection and regulations for unlicensed entities in football ……. So the decision should be a simple one.