A revealing study involving Hartpury University – a renowned centre of sporting excellence – has shed fresh light on new and emerging practices within the football agent industry in the modern game.
Football agents are often portrayed in the media as having too much power and influence over their clients, loyal only to themselves, and driven by the sole aim of making as much money as possible from transfer deals and contract negotations.
But a new study involving Mike Green from Hartpury University, which offers BSc and MSc Sports Management degrees, suggests there is much more to understand about the role and responsibilities of football agents to their clients within the English professional game.
Rather than only negotiating transfers and new contracts for their clients, the study identified four emerging practices related to aspects of an agent’s role – image development, financial planning, relationship building with players and clubs, and acting as constructive counsellor.
Mike Green said: “These emerging practices of football agents ensure their clients have the space to remain focused on playing football and not worrying about multiple uncertainties created within endorsement deals or the mechanics of a club contract.”
Data was collected from interviews with 20 football agents with a minimum of two years’ experience who had responsibilities for 114 professional players from either or both of the Premier League or the Championship.
The findings, published in the Journal of Global Sport Management, present evidence that the agent industry has experienced a significant period of evolution.
It suggests that football agents have become increasingly specialised in the four emerging practices identified by the study, as clients continue to expect the highest level of individual service, often unrelated to “on-field” performances.
Mike Green, a Senior Lecturer in Sport Management at Hartpury University said: “Technological evolutions now allow agents to provide a full suite of branding services, including endorsements, personal branding, community outreach and public relations, that can establish their client’s image and prepare them for post-career activities.
“Relationship building originates from an agent’s ability and dedication to build personal and professional networks, understand market trends, evaluate player qualities and act accordingly.
“Providing constructive counselling and feedback through elevated levels of emotional intelligence has evolved as a fundamental practice as players increasingly seek guidance and reassurance in this new data driven and media scrutinised world of professional football.
“Financial planning remains focused towards economic security and maximising career earnings in an increasingly complex negotiation environment.”
Mike Green, who carried out the study with Professor Tony Ghaye from Loughborough University, said further investigations were necessary to assess the full impact of the deregulation of the industry by Fifa in 2015.
Deregulation meant that those looking to represent players no longer had to pass the FIFA agent exam, take out indemnity insurance, or possess understanding of contract law.
Mike Green said: “Following deregulation, the number of registered agents in England increased from approximately 600 in 2015 to 1,700 in 2018 saturating the nature of the industry.
“The amount of money paid to agents is increasing and exposes the financial resources available to clubs whilst also validating the growing influence of a profession.
“There is no doubt that many more will look to showcase these emergent practices in a bid to join the ‘agent family’.”