There comes a time in every industry, and for those involved in and affected by said industry to decide whether the industry is professional and whether those involved are recognised as professionals.

It is not enough to label a profession based on the actions of a select few working in that industry however professional, conscientious, educated and practised these participants may be.

As I wrote in a previous article (Football Agents …….. “The Scum of the Earth” ?), I am often embarrassed to introduce myself as a football (or sports) agent based solely on the reputation and preconceptions of the industry and its participants, yet I know I am not alone in feeling this. Plus when I do make people aware of my occupation (note I don’t say ‘profession’) is it more often greeted with an air of mistrust, negative preconceptions and at times even a sneer.

But why should I feel like this? I am not embarrassed by what I do or how I do it; I know I do my very best for my clients and operate to a high ethical standard within the rules and regulations of the industry.

Furthermore I want to improve myself,  I want to improve things in the industry and I want to be part of a profession I can be proud of; but the argument is no profession exists for my industry. In fact earlier this year I even considered whether it was worthwhile renewing my ‘Football Intermediary’ status with the FA as it is difficult to see the immediate benefits to being registered (see : Renewing as a Registered Football Intermediary (Agent) – Is it Worth It ?”).

Limited Encouragement to Become Professional

Focussing on English Football, there are many participants in the game including players, coaches, scouts, managers, goalkeepers, academy managers, referees, administrators, parent/guardians, medical staff; and as such the FA have taken steps in providing education, training and development pathways for most (if not all of these groups). Yet there is one group of participants who the FA register, govern and regulate for who there is no development pathway and that is agents (now intermediaries). So even at this very basic level of trying to develop  professional standards not even the governing body offer much encouragement. This is, to the extent where I myself enrol on courses designed for other football participant types, to develop myself as a professional all-rounded participant. And even then an agent/intermediary may have to battle to get onto the course, as football agents aren’t seen as a relevant participant by some due to the ‘Football Bias and Stereotypes that All Goes With The Territory’ of being an agent.

Comparison With A Profession

To draw a comparison with a profession; a good friend of mine is a very well practised, qualified and professional trust, estate and wills lawyer and as such is part of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners). Their members endeavour to develop not only their own skills but that of their industry for the benefit of their clients. However I would guess that if you talk to him (or any of his fellow STEP practitioners) about the rash of relatively inexperienced ‘will-writers’ over the last 5-6 years, you can rightly sense his frustration at how some of them operate, and quite rightly he is quick to differentiate between these relatively inexperienced will writers and his fellow professionals. However within his industry the STEP organisation works pro-actively to improve professional practice and help and educate its member-participants, thus constantly striving for improvement in a ‘professional’ for the best interests of the end-client and giving the ‘professionals’ a ‘badge’  and status they work for, earn and can be proud of.

Unfortunate Facts of The Football Agent Industry

The fact is my industry has developed its own rapacious, greedy, selfish, unprofessional, unethical image and also had assistance in enhancing this image (e.g. media). Granted the bad image and preconceptions of football agents are well justified by the actions of many in involved in the industry. However I am perfectly safe in my knowledge that good agents/intermediaries do exist, but it is getting even more difficult for them to survive let alone thrive; and many of the ‘good guys (and girls)’ are unfortunately leaving the industry.

The industry and the governing bodies/authorities overseeing football agent activity, ‘give all stick, and no carrot‘, and even when the stick is applied it is ineffective and not a real deterrent. Yet by offering no ‘carrot’ to participants for good practice is it little wonder that for those in the middle of the ethical spectrum tend to veer to the ‘dark side’ rather than be encouraged to undertake good practice and higher ethical standards.

Evolution, Maturing and Growing up from Industry to ProfessionDespite asking in a previous article “Who is to ‘Blame’ for Football Agents and their Apparent Bad Behaviour?”, I came to the conclusion that it is :

  1. impossible to point the finger of blame at any one group or organisation,
    and
  2. there is no point looking at the past unless it is with the purpose of learning by your mistakes for future improvement.

Can the Industry : Learn, Develop and Mature ?

Subsequently the question arises : ‘can we learn from the mistakes of the past and the current problems?’ , to resolve the issues and thus make this a time for the football agent (intermediary) industry to grow up and mature into a profession rather that just an industry?  And I think the answer from those with relevant knowledge of the industry and also those affected by it – would be a resounding yes. However there have been many obstacles to the maturation of an industry that is otherwise seen, at best, as a ‘necessary evil’ (see article “Football Agents … Are They a ‘Necessary Evil’?”).

Why Has it Remained an Industry and Not a Profession ?

But why hasn’t it been done (or even been constructively attempted), and the industry allowed to degenerate into what is on the whole perceived as an unprofessional, unregulated and even corrupt industry. Well for me I think there have been many obstacles to see the industry grow-up and become a profession,some of which remain today e.g. :

  • Retrograde steps taken by FIFA,
    in ‘abandoning’ the old agents licensing system in 2015

  • Football Authorities and Stakeholders Failure to take effective responsibility

  • Flawed systems of regulation

  • Lack of resources for governance and enforcement

  • Football Families Failure to Encourage Good Practice

  • Acceptance by those affected, of the Status Quo

  • The approach of ‘Burying Heads in the Sand’ and/or Giving Up

  • An attitude of ‘It Doesn’t Affect Me, SO Why Should I Care?’

 

Subsequently I will cover these various hurdles and obstacles to the Football Agent Industry ; ‘growing up’ and ‘maturing into a profession’ in part 2 of this article.