I am probably putting myself in the ‘firing line’ with this article, but as a football intermediary (agent) it is a phrase I hear time and time again, and is very much a favourite of the sports media columnists : “Taking Money Out of the Game” but :

  1. what exactly does it mean?
  2. who does it apply to?

For good reasons football intermediaries (agents) are referred to almost in the same breath as ‘taking money out of the game’.  And as their efforts and work in the sport are rarely seen (let alone recognised), when they are seen this is usually for all the wrong reasons (i.e. exploiting players, not supporting players, or making unreasonable demands of clubs).

So to an extent it is accepted that the connection between football intermediaries (agents) and ‘taking money out of the game’ is somewhat understandable.

However in an attempt to put some perspective on the phrase and its use, I have tried to look at how justifiable the phrase is when used with agents/intermediaries without going into complexities of the sport and the business associated with it.


Comparison with Another Type of Agent

In the job that an estate agent (or lettings agent) does, the question could be asked : are they ‘taking money out of the housing market’?, or are they at worse ‘damaging the housing market’?

Much like a football agent, an estate agent is appointed to  provide a service, that effectively the client could undertake themselves. Yet a professional and competent agent you would hope provides knowledge, support and effectively a service for the client that saves them time and money through expertise that the client may not have themselves.

You could argue that an estate agent taking a commission from a first time buyer, or taking a fee for selling a house for a young family or even a senior citizen downsizing is ‘taking money out of the housing market’.

Granted there are good and bad in all industries and I may be taking the easy option in using the comparison with estate agents.

However from a wider perspective you may draw similar comparisons with a plethora of other ‘consultants’, and even recognised professionals where the money that they earn in providing a service results in money being taken from the clients industry/community.

Just one such case is that of an accountant as you can choose do your accounts and tax return yourself, but many choose to use a professional to hopefully save them time and money.

The Different Roles of Football Intermediaries (agents)

One major aspect that many people don’t understand about football intermediaries (agents), or choose to ignore is that different agents/intermediaries work very differently, even down to who they represent.

Some represent clubs, some represent players, some represent managers (and coaches) and some may even represent two or three of the above. Likewise who actually pays the agent/intermediary varies as well and it is ultimately their choice who they pay, if they pay and how much.

Also if it is the case that the agent/intermediary solely represents the player and the player pays them, the argument of money going out of the game is no different to that player paying an agent/intermediary to that of them using the same funds on the latest gadget or lifestyle item sold to them by someone else ‘outside of the game’.

Other Businesses Involved

This may prove to be a frivolous argument but bear with me …………. Football to most is focussed around one thing …. match day.

But in getting to match day how many providers, consultants and in effect ‘agents’ does a club, a league or even the individual players utilise to make sure they provide a service on that all important match day. And of those providers how many could you argue ‘take money out of the game’ – that is unless they are the club benefactor/owner who owns all the companies that provide services to the club on a match day, and the money they take from that is invested back into the club, and ultimately the game.

However I have yet to meet a club owner/benefactor who owns all the companies that provides the pies, designs and prints the programmes, provides the mower for the ground …… so doesn’t all this result in ‘money going out of the game’ ?

The ‘Bank of Football’

Unfortunately there is no ‘bank of football’, it doesn’t print its own notes, it cannot ringfence the money coming into the sport so that it never leaves football. Although there may be some (previously involved with FIFA) who would have thought of this as a good idea for a future strategy.

The fact is when money is perceived to ‘be going out of the game’ to agents, there are some key considerations that should be made :

  • is the money truly being ‘earned’ by the agent in providing a good service
  • is the service provided by the agent benefiting a participant of the game (e.g. player or club)
  • is the money being paid truly an additional cost or would it be swallowed up elsewhere (i.e. player salary- from where most ‘legitimate’ agents fees realistically come from anyway)
  • does the service provided by the agent allow the ‘wheel’ of the football industry ‘to turn’.

I cannot defend the amounts of money that exchange hands in football at the elite levels when compared to the hard earned salaries of the majority involved – whether it be transfer fees, player salaries, and indeed agents commissions. However this is not dissimilar to many other walks of life where chief executives, bankers even politicians command very high salaries when compared to the ‘man/woman in the street’.

Unfortunately football sits under a microscope for everyone to scrutinise and many times it is just a reflection of other parts of society. Yes, money does ’go out of the game’, but it also ‘comes into the game’ (e.g. sponsors), the fact is money makes the ‘world’ go round (along with physics and many other factors, before the scientists pull me up on that one) – however much we like it or not.

And ultimately it is the choice of the football participants as to whether to use the services of an agent/intermediary and whether or not ‘money goes out of the game’ in this manner or one of the many other ways.