Why Footballers Require Professional Advice Not Unqualified Opinions

A few months ago we were approached by a mainstream French newspaper in regards to an article they were writing in relation to the recent report that underlined the serious escalation in bankruptcy amongst footballers. This report subsequently prompted some statements and responses by some in the professional game of football that agents had to take some of the responsibility for badly advising their player-clients.

Whilst I believe in some cases the agent(s) are responsible for badly advising their clients and thus should be held accountable for this advice, it is reasonable to say not all agents undertake such practices whether the advice is :

  1. Innocent advice, that may have been well intentioned
  2. Unqualified bad advice
  3. Advice with an ulterior motive

….. and that many agents do genuinely try to safeguard their clients best interests.

Best Interests of the Client

The ethos of Chiron has been focussed on always representing the best interests of the sporting client (player, footballer) and 2 key statements can be found in the documents published by both FIFA and The Football Association (in England), in the context that they are both directed at agents and their activities :

  1. From FIFA – Regulations Players’ Agents – Code of Professional Conduct(3) The players’ agent shall always adhere to the truth, clarity and objectivity in his dealings with his client, negotiating partners and other parties.(4)  The players’ agent shall protect the interests of his client in compliance with the law and a sense of fairness, while creating clear legal relations.
  2. From FA – Football Agents Regulations
    An Authorised Agent shall serve and protect the best interests of his client at all times, which shall include but not be limited to notifying the client of all material facts in relation to any Transaction or Contract Negotiation.

…………………… at the time of writing this both are still in the relevant documents.

Some agents may agree with us that these statements should form a cornerstone of all of there activities but as with many other industries and professions there are good and bad who may choose not to uphold such a professional code of conduct and serve the best interests of their client.

You’re an Expert? ……… Really ?

The term ‘expert’ is in my opinion massively overused in fact isn’t the term expert often referred to as “an old drip who is under pressure” ?

Although the roles of an agent and services provided vary from agent to agent (even within the same agency) it is safe to say each has their own area of expertise in various areas, but not everyone is qualified to offer expert and qualified advice.

I have met many agents who have a background in finance, law, coaching, HR but – are they (or another agent) all qualified to offer advice in every area required by their client … the player …. The answer for me is a resounding no.

As an agent I firmly believe it is my duty to best support the interests of your client both in the short term and the long term, and quite often this is ‘shielding’ them from ‘so called experts’ ,  to put a footballing analogy to the scenario

……. A goalkeeper has to feel comfortable that he can come out and collect a ‘loose-ball’ at the feet of many onrushing players, if he is comfortable in the fact that his defender (the agent) will protect him and shield him from getting a kick in the head and when safe to do so he will be able to perform and collect the ball as normal ……… maybe not the ideal analogy but paints a picture that the agent should build up a level of trust with his client where he is effectively riding shotgun.

Advice vs Introduction vs Opinion

In recent months (if not years) there have been many stories in the media about footballers  who have ‘fallen on hard times’ and/or made poor investment decisions thus losing their investments. Yet when you look at comments from certain third parties a proportion of the blame is placed at the door of the agent. Yet surely not all the blame can be placed on all agents in these cases, yes if the agent has provided financial advice and is not licensed or qualified to do so then they are at fault and rightly should be investigated.

It is fair to say that ‘introducers’ and ‘commissions’ to introducing parties are part and parcel of many services including but not limited to financial investments and as such some agents choose to accept such introducers fees. Now whether it is your opinion that these should be accepted and/or whether it may cloud someone’s judgement as to whether the service is good, bad or indifferent is for you to decide …… personally no matter how well meaning your intentions are some things do sway a persons judgement if not their integrity.

I can only speak from my personal experience and viewpoint on this matter and point out that I personally steer clear from offering and accepting introducers or commissions in regards to player-clients – preferring to see this passed back to the client as a saving or as a donation to a charitable cause.

If a player/client requires professional advice (e.g. financial advice) I will advise them that they need this advice, yet at no point will I offer this advice as I am not qualified and/or regulated.

If the player asks me from who they should get this advice I will try to point them in the direction of qualified people who can legitimately assist and help them, BUT the decision as to who they appoint is totally down to them as is the case with their decision as to heed the advisors qualified advice and act on it.

Opinions (in most cases) are cheap, and I believe one former Premier League manager once implied ‘everyone has opinions, like backsides – yet it isn’t always a good idea to air them in public’. If I offer an opinion to a player I feel it is because I believe it to be of use as guidance I will not however offer an opinion on something I am not qualified in unless it is asked for by the player-client (and even then I may choose to withhold that opinion as I do not feel qualified to offer it).

Who is to blame and who is responsible

I firmly believe that blame is rarely founded and can only truly be laid at the door of someone who has deliberately misled and/or knowingly tried to harm someone else whether they be a professional footballer or someone else in the street.

Blame is easy to place on someone else, but in this scenario I firmly believe it is more a case of responsibility ……… the responsibility of the agent, the player, their clubs, the leagues, the sports governing bodies and all the various bodies there to support players.

However one final point to any footballers who may be reading this, whoever your agent, whatever their background …….. make your own educated decisions. Your agent (if qualified and part of your representation agreement) should offer you advice, and if they are not qualified but you choose to ask their opinion they can do so (much the same reserve their opinion) …… however if you don’t feel comfortable making the decision get some qualified advice ……. And if you still don’t feel comfortable go for the safe option.

You are the talent, you are the employer …….. take a hold of your future.