So after more than 10 years as a football agent, (intermediary, cowboy, leach … whatever your perspective); I took the decision some time ago to step away from the typical role as an agent. Many have asked why (something I may touch on in a later article), whilst others have asked whether I would do anything differently or regret what I had or hadn’t done during this time?

Whilst a part of me wishes I had never got involved in a largely godforsaken, poorly regulated and often corrupt industry; I have to be honest enough to say that if I could roll back the clock I would do it again, albeit take a very different approach, to address some of the regrets.

More than 10 years as an authorised Football Agent ........ are there many regrets?

Regret (Not) Bending My Moral Compass?

As I have said (and written) publicly, privately and through the media, the general football agent stereotype is deserved in an unacceptably large proportion of cases; whether this is in terms of lacking professionalism, exploitation or ignorance to client care in favour of self-interest. However, there are a lot of genuine people in the industry who work hard and are totally focussed on the interests and success of their sporting clients ahead of their own interests – yet sadly many of these have left the industry in recent years, which in turn leaves a vacuum which is filled with the inexperienced and/or the undesirable further fuelling the negative stereotype.

The subject of morals and ethics have become somewhat of a pet subject of mine in recent years, which I can confidently say is down to my time as a sports and football agent. And in hindsight I entered the industry somewhat blinkered in terms of ethical standards. Don’t get me wrong I was under no illusions as to how cutthroat and manipulative the industry would be. However, what I didn’t understand were the ethical values held by the industry and the various groups and individuals in the industry.

In hindsight, I do regret not dropping my moral guard and subsequent ethical values, if only just fractionally. I believe this stifled my progression and successes in the industry.

Regret (Not) Facilitating ‘Incentives’?

So, what of the ‘incentives’, or even ‘brown envelopes’ and ‘bungs’ as they have historically been referred to? Yes they exist, and still do, albeit in different forms. Seemingly varying in size, value and medium; but do I regret not entertaining the incentives?

From acquiring boots for a player with the aim of getting him to sign with you as his agent, to ‘crossing the palm’ of a ‘coach’ to introduce players as potential clients – there’s a range of scenarios that come with the territory of a football agent; some of which are outside of the regulations and others a ‘grey area’ shall we say.

Even in the first few months of being an FA licensed agent, I was presented with the potential opportunity to be paid tens of thousands (of pounds) to sign a couple of bits of paper to ‘front’ a deal (for the transfer of a player to a top-flight club) for the seeming benefit of a 3rd party, unlicensed agent and manager. It is difficult not to regret passing up such opportunities when it seems they are such a regular occurrence when you consider that signing just those few bits of paper (transfer and representation documents) in my first few months of being an FA licensed agent (as a ‘front’) would have meant making more on that one action than I went on to make in the next 2 years as a whole.

Likewise, do I regret crossing the palms (with silver) of various individuals; from those associated with clubs, 3rd party ‘advisors’ or even players relatives? Again, it is difficult not to when you see others who were ready to make such unlawful concessions, then go on to make large profits from facilitating such incentives either in terms of an offer or acceptance.

So, do I regret not facilitating such incentives? Again, I would be lying if I said I didn’t at times think in such a way, as there are times when you look at the bank balance or opportunities passed up and think ‘what if’. Yet I am comfortable in my own choices on such matters especially that the bribery act being implemented in recent years now makes such activity a criminal offence in the UK. Also from my own experiences of such, I recall one ‘coach’ who despite being told I would not pay him for an introduction (never would, never did) still pushed for one after the player had signed; then said “I couldn’t be trusted” when I refused to pay him anything for the player signing with me, which I think paints me in a far more positive light than him.  

Regret (Not) Lying and The Cheating?

Lying has never been my strong suit or indeed ‘bending the truth’, I was probably more skilled at this when I was 8 years old; but it does seem to be regarded as an essential tool for many agents (and others in the football world).

Telling players (and others) the truths and realities rather than what they seemingly want to hear, has definitely lost me more clients than it has gained. And although many of them have come back to tell me that ‘I was right’, this gives me little (or no) pleasure to think they have damaged their career and/or reputation, and found themselves on the wrong side of a judgement or lost money due to ‘dodgy’ advice.

I can’t regret not lying or cheating, as I have lied during my time as an agent, if only to (for example) ‘soften the blow’ for a young player or buy some time – but for me, it is something that was done with best intentions for others and not for my benefit. The important thing is that lying was on relatively insignificant matters and not solely for my benefit.

Regret Abiding by the Regulations

Probably my biggest regret in terms of being an agent was paying too much notice to the regulations and subsequently abiding by them quite strictly. This is not so much for the fact that they don’t make sense and are not viable, but more down to the fact that they are rarely observed and are open to such varied interpretation and piece-meal implementation, offering seemingly little or no protection or benefit to those who operate within the regulations and are subject to agent activity.

The football authorities both domestically and internationally are seemingly inadequate in implementing and enforcing the regulations regarding agents, and this has left me and many others with little respect for the football authorities and in particular the agent regulations ….. and thus my biggest regret from my time as an agent was sticking to the rules.

I would go as far as to say now that being unlicensed or unregistered as an agent intermediary is probably the more productive, lucrative and financially sound way to go (if you can bend that moral compass).

Regrets of Trying to Cooperate (with the Football Authorities)

So, from having a high level of regard for The FA and having pride in being a ‘Football Agent Licensed by the Football Association’ those feelings soured over the years.

For many years I can safely say I acted as devil’s advocate when people were frustrated with the football authorities and their regulations, even to the extent of me defending them. However, several years on I do regret trying to cooperate with football governance authorities (i.e. The FA) whether it be upholding the regulations, helping them with their requests, consulting on improvements and reporting issues and concerns (many of which were seemingly never acted upon; despite my ‘duty to disclose’). I now somewhat hold football authorities in very low regard (especially The FA), even to the extent of disdain.

Regret Pushing for Industry and Regulatory Reform

During my time as a football agent, I worked for two of the Agent Associations and in both I endeavoured to encourage reform and build bridges between various entities for the benefit of the legitimate and professional football agent community as well as those that were affected by agent activity (e.g. players).

With regards to these efforts, I do probably have more regrets than feelings of satisfaction; despite recognition from various quarters for my efforts. Granted I made some good acquaintances (and friends) along the way, and was privy to information and meetings with people I would probably have never been involved with. However, the wasted investment of time, money and a huge effort is what I regret most in what seems now to have been an ultimately impossible task.

In hindsight, I couldn’t have envisaged the amount of resentment between various football entities to one another, and the overriding fact that no one truly wanted to put in the effort or take responsibility unless it was wholly in their interests. Hence, it is little surprise that the cabals of the football world haven’t improved in 10 years when it comes to football agents. Despite the cries bemoaning that it must change ‘for the good of the game’ and the repeated self-righteous pontifications of various football stakeholders, these same people are the ones who can implement change, but won’t for one reason or another.

Regret the Acquaintances Made

You may well think from reading this; that I have a dislike for almost everyone I have met along the way as a football agent, but that is simply not the case. 

I have met many who both share and disagree with my values, work ethic and opinions – and whilst there are some I would ‘cross the street’ to avoid, I have met many people who I have a great deal of time and respect for both personally and professionally. These people come from a cross-section of organisations, professions and backgrounds whether they be agents, club officials, players, managers/coaches, the government and even some from the FA believe it or not. It is safe to say I have even developed friendships with people I trust and would happily try and help again …….. and hopefully, such thoughts are mutual.

Yet what I do acknowledge is that many of those agents who I have developed a greater level of trust with, respect for, and who are the ‘good guys/gals’ in an ultimately shady industry, have either left the industry altogether or seemingly treat it now more as a part-time commitment. 

This is a sad indictment and a dangerous predicament for football, and whilst some football stakeholders and key persons think football would be a better place without agents …… they are wrong. By making the life of ‘good’ agents difficult and driving them out, they often create a vacuum for less professional or even the more unscrupulous and unethical operator.

All in all, my time as a football agent over the years although not as successful as I would have liked, (in many ways) has been a time for both regrets and satisfaction. It has been littered with frustration, mistrust, cost and sacrifices and I have seen some of the really dark sides of how some people operate and treat others. But, it has also been an opportunity to learn some quite complex and unique skills that I may not have attained or experienced in many other ‘professions‘ (…..well industries).

Do I regret this time as an authorised football agent?

errrrrrmmmmm ….. No ….. well sort of 😉

Do I regret not doing some things differently?

……………… most definitely, yes!