“‘Duality’ – A Benefit to Who Exactly ?”

 

As with most of the articles I write, I am going to put myself right in the ‘firing line’ yet again. Not just with those in the football community (e.g. managers, coaches, governance, club owners, chief executives and supporters) but also with my fellow agents/intermediaries and possibly some legal professionals.

Duality (dual representation) is akin to Third Party Ownership (TPO) in that it generates quite a lot of debate and difference of opinion amongst those affected by it, with some in favour and some against. However it is accurate to say the matter of ‘dual-representation’ (duality) in football can be used as a force for good and also a force for bad.

* I wont be referring to the subject of TPO (Third Party Ownership) or TPI (Third Party Investment) in this article, as it is a very different topic – and something I am quite conflicted on – despite being ‘hard-line’ against it previously.

My personal opinion on duality is that it causes more problems than it solves, and disadvantages more people than it helps in football. It is quite easy to ‘spin’ the argument either way (for or against), and with that in mind although I am personally not in favour of duality in football representation, this article is my perception as to how the subject affects football from my experiences of it.

 

A ‘Quick’ Overview

Duality in Football (Dual Representation) It should not come as a surprise to most, to learn that under current football regulations a football agent (intermediary) can represent either a player or club in a transfer/negotiation/contract. However just as a means of a comparison, and as I understand it, under current Rugby League (RFL) regulations an agent is not permitted to do so …… they must represent either players OR clubs across all dealings in the sport.

However what generally does surprise many people is that, in football; an agent/intermediary can not only represent BOTH parties (player and club), in the SAME negotiation, but also get PAID BY BOTH ………. “Conflict of Interest” I hear people cry, and I cannot disagree in many cases.

Imagine the scene ……. it is transfer deadline day and the clock is ticking down on a deal where the agent/intermediary is appointed to represent both the player and the buying club, but they have hit a stumbling block in terms of both length of contract and basic salary offered to the player.

‘Imagine’ if a club representative/official  (just say) talks with the agent/intermediary in question to try and get the contract concluded quickly (not necessarily with the knowledge of the player). It is not unreasonable to say that an added bonus may be offered to the agent/intermediary to get the contract concluded and get their player client to accept a contract but on what may be less favourable terms and possibly not in the players best interest.

Now comes the quandary; where is the agents ‘moral compass’ pointing? Do they accept an allowed ‘sweetener’ from the club to get the transfer concluded (nothing ethically wrong with that in terms of the rules and regulations) and argue it is in the best interest of the player? In many cases I agree that in some cases accepting the offer, may well be in the players best interests.

However, just two things to consider :

  1. Wouldn’t it be easier to have everything clear-cut, black & white : that an agent/intermediary cannot represent both player and club in the transaction, BUT more importantly they can only get paid by one party?
  2. Surely in representing the best interests of their client(s) the agent/intermediary will make a judgement on what is best for their client and thus present their case as such? No need for a ‘sweetener’ of any kind for them, as their job is to get the negotiation concluded  in the best interest of their client(s).

 

The Legal Contradiction of Duality

When discussing the subject of ‘duality’ with people who come from the legal profession and don’t work largely in football, they are shocked by the fact that duality exists let alone tolerated and openly permitted by the sports governing bodies. This is not surprising when it (I understand) conflicts with their with their legal codes and procedures (including rule 3 of the SRA (Solicitors Regulatory Authority) governing conflicts of interest).

However the question can then be asked : why there may well be lawyers and solicitors undertaking football agent/intermediary activity and facilitating ‘duality’ in undertaking these duties. I by no means object to lawyers and solicitors undertaking intermediary activity (with the approval of their respective firms) as in most cases they are far better qualified to do so than I (let alone many others). But in facilitating duality; aren’t they contradicting their own rules and regulations in terms of a conflicts of interest – let alone their own code of conduct (the SRA Code of Conduct 2011) and professional duties to their instructing client.

 

The Argument Supporting Duality

Now I can hear some of my fellow agents and intermediaries recoiling in their chairs or getting more infuriated as they read what I have said thus far. I accept there are possible cases that can be put forward  to justify duality in representing the interests of player and club ………. and that is something i will touch upon in part 2 of this article looking at the case for dual representation in football and some of the dark arts behind duality in football.