It is without doubt a new role that many football clubs in England are looking to introduce, and from my experience over the last couple of years many clubs have already taken the step of installing/recruiting a ‘player liaison officer.

What Do They Actually Do ? ……. Is There a Role for Player Liaison Officers?

To be a quite honest there isn’t a definitive answer in my opinion to this question as from my experience different player liaison officers carry out their duties in different ways from one club to the next. This may be down to the remit and instructions given by their employers (i.e. the club) or the decision of the Player Liaison Officer to implement their own role and responsibilities …. I suppose in football (although on a different level) the role of Director of Football has similar variations between clubs as to the actual job description and remit of the role.

Some player liaison offers are somewhat of a cross between a personal assistant,  guide and lifestyle manager dealing with the everyday matters that affect the players lifestyle away from the pitch and training ground from relocation to hotel accommodation, sourcing education needs for a players children to facilitating everyday needs such as a bank account so it may be more a case of assisting newly signed players, younger players or those relocating.

On the other hand there are player liaison officers who have a far more performance focussed responsibility than just assisting with the players lifestyle management and requirements away from the club. Some may even take on to an extent a ‘coaching role’ with those areas that whilst not actually directly affecting match day performance may have an effect on their footballing performance and/or state of mind whether it be counselling, mental wellbeing, mentoring, education or even medical health and wellbeing (but this will have some overlap with the role of the traditional education and welfare officer).

The important thing for an agent looking to develop a cooperative working relationship with a player liaison officer (to best assist the player) is to understand their roles and responsibilities and to accept that like agents, not every player liaison officer is the same.

For the Player’s Agent, is the Player Liaison Officer Friend or Foe?

In most cases the two should work hand in hand, as their key role and responsibility should surely be to act in the best interests of the player …. but life is rarely that simple and straightforward (even less so in football some may argue) as people are often blinkered and/or structure their own role to support their own goals and ‘agendas’.

From my own perspective a lot of the tasks that a player liaison officer undertakes should be the responsibility and remit of the agent, but as many already know: not all agents (and agencies) share the same duty of care and responsibility when it comes to their player clients as myself. Subsequently a good player liaison officer plays a crucial role in not only assisting the player but ALSO the player’s agent.

There is however one crucial factor as to how effective the relationship between player/football agent and player / liaison officer is and that is communication, as without this there may be duplication in tasks undertaken that leaves the player confused with duplicated expenses/costs. This is not helped by the fact that sometimes a club (or senior club official) may direct the player liaison officer to restrict communication and communication with the player’s agent, something that doesn’t help agent, player liaison nor most importantly the player in either the long term or the short term.

 

When Does Such a Supposedly Beneficial Relationship Become ‘Derailed’?

Leaving communication aside for one moment, from my experience and hearing about such problems this tends to happen when either party:

  • doesn’t know their role (or chooses to ignore it)
  • has a hidden agenda of their own, or even allowing a third party to become involved (with their own agenda).
  • shirks their own responsibilities in support the player

 

Knowing their role (and their place) – player liaison officers, like agents may have their own very varied ‘past-lives’ and areas of expertise; but it is key to know your role and responsibility in the relationship with and duty to the player.

In fact player liaison officers may have to tread more carefully here than agents, especially in regards to matters involving the official employment relationship between the club and the player. As however tempting it may be for them to offer advice to a player, they would be well advised to beware undertaking what could be considered ‘agency activity’ by the footballing authorities as this could land the individual, player or club in disciplinary trouble.

For the agent it is also important to know their role and responsibilities, as quite often club matters that affect a player do not interfere as this can have a detrimental working relationship with the club for both player and agent. Sure keep the lines of communication open and work with the player liaison officer (as with the rest of the club) but try not to interfere in club matters and arrangements, unless they are not in the best interests of the player client.

The most basic boundaries to draw are the facts that primarily:

  • The agent is employed by the player
  • The player liaison officer is employed by the club
  • and where there is any doubt ….. ask ….. communicate ….. and work together

 

Developing an Agenda (whether consciously or subconsciously) – Both roles in their nature have a high reliance on building and developing effective working relationship with others, and it is human nature that sometimes our judgement becomes clouded. The task of acting in the players best interests can at times be a difficult one and sometimes open to misjudgement, but this trusted role should not be clouded by the fact that one external provider may offer a commission or reward for working with them (even more prevalent in light of the bribery act)

 

Shirking their responsibility – shouldn’t be a problem for either agent or player liaison officer, but it can become easy for one or the other to shift responsibility and/or blame on to one another, someone else or even the player.

If something hasn’t been undertaken and/or needs to be completed in the players best interests (in regards to his relationship with the club) but hasn’t,  then something is wrong, and either agent or liaison officer has shirked their responsibility whether it be an explicit or implicit responsibility of either role.

How Can Player Liaison Officers and Player’s Agents Work Best Together?

For me the simple answer is : to know your role and communicate what is being undertaken to assist the player (in relation to the club), as surely the main responsibility of both is to allow the player to develop a productive playing career with that club and subsequently both player and club reap the rewards on the pitch.

So in summary, a player liaison officer (in essence) offers assistance to not only the player but also agent ……… that is if the relationship is effectively developed and managed.