Last week I had the pleasure in being able attend one of the Football Association’s Talent-ID courses, and although this was meant for club recruitment and scouting staff I felt it was an important part of my own personnel CPD programme – especially as there are few (if any) such courses for agents/intermediaries.

Prior to the course I didn’t even think I would be accepted, and I am led to believe my attendance was deliberated over by the FA education team and those delivering the course, so a big thankyou to them in being open-minded enough to accept me on the course.

Mixed Reception

Granted the reception received from others attending the course (both direct and indirect) was somewhat mixed, and even at the end of the 3 day course there was still a distinct air of mistrust towards me as an agent/intermediary (which I will come to later). However this is still somewhat understandable with the reputation generated by some agents and intermediaries over an extended period. In fact I wrote a blog article myself nearly 3 and half years ago entitled “Football Agents ………. The scum of the earth”, so it is apparent that the image of football agents (intermediaries) in the football populous doesn’t seem to have changed that much.

The Purpose

So what was the purpose of me going on the course? Well, as I already mentioned I perceive talent identification to be an important component for most agents’ skill-sets, and this was also an opportunity to obtain a better understanding of how club scouts and recruitment team’s work, their difficulties and what they are looking for. It could have however be seen by some more opportunist agents as an opportunity to network and ‘work a room’ that is attended by club recruitment staff.  But to me this would have been unprofessional given the purpose of attending and it would have also been to the detriment of those in attendance and possible future courses.

The course itself was ‘a real eye-opener’ as to the in-depth nature of the roles and tasks undertaken by various members of football club recruitment staff (for both junior and senior football players), and all the things that they have to consider. Which in turn I will take into consideration when working with these various parties in future, not least to make life easier for all of those involved and ultimately help all parties reach their objectives and goals.

There was one major topic on the course that stood out from the rest; and that was the subject of ‘BIAS’. Whilst this is something all football coaches, scouts and talent-ID professionals should consider in assessing the abilities of a player (or team), what was clear was the bias that exists in terms of some other roles in football. Whilst the old stereotype still exists that all footballers are stupid, it was quite evident that the clear stereotype of football agents (football intermediaries) still exists ……. e.g. corrupt, selfish, cannot be trusted etc. etc.

Tongue in Cheek

Granted, some of the comments made over three days were somewhat ‘tongue in cheek’ and this comes with the territory, whether they be comments about ‘dodgy agents’, ‘brown envelopes’, ‘agents always being busy’ ….. it was very clear that there was a lot of naivety and misunderstanding of the rules and regulations related to agents/intermediaries and how these can affect club officials and clubs.

My participation in the course was open and honest and hopefully it changed some people’s perceptions of agents and how they should be handled and treated. This was not least from my own perspective, but also from the perspective of other participants and how they deal with agents/intermediaries and subsequent rules and regulations in their own roles.

An added bonus to attending the course and developing my own knowledge was that I believe I was able to (to an extent) change people’s perceptions and enhance their own awareness of agents and intermediaries. That said, I did have to point out to one fellow classmate that ‘the exception doesn’t necessarily prove the rule’ in the way I conduct myself, and whilst there are many good agents out there, I am sad to say far more unscrupulous ones exist.

After 3 days on the course the most disappointing aspect was that some of those attending came and left with their bias firmly in tact when it comes to agents and intermediaries, not even entertaining a handshake or verbal goodbye on departing. Let’s hope their bias and misunderstanding of the subject of agents and intermediaries does not prove to be of detriment to themselves, their jobs and their clubs in the decisions they choose to make.

However it has to be said that the image and role of football agents/intermediaries will only be better understood and to an extent embraced when amongst other things :

  1. agents/intermediaries repair a damaged reputation
  2. participants ‘open their eyes‘ to the positive and professional role of agents/intermediaries, and not just stereotypes and rumour,
  3. the football authorities do more to address the problems and issues – not least encourage good agent/intermediary activity.