Learn more about 3 different categories of football agents: FA licensed agents, “Life-style” agents or scouts and “Sunday traders”.
The agent’s job is to represent the interests of a football player. A football agent negotiates contracts with teams, seeks out marketing and sponsorship opportunities, takes out insurance, and handles the day-to-day business of football players’ careers. For that the football agent earns a commission as a percentage of the contracted fee.
While intermediaries acting in the transfers of footballers have existed since almost the birth of the professional game, the profession of an agent was not officially recognised until 1991 when FIFA established the first official licensing system. Despite the high concentration of players and the fierce competitiveness in the representation market, every year a football agent, as a profession, attracts new aspirants who desire to become one. Only 3.4% of agents are female, which confirms that until now the profession of agents has been dominated by men.
The socio-demographic profile of football agents can be very different, as can be the business structure of their activity. Agents differ on the number of players in their portfolios, on the period of time which they contract their players, regions or markets of their activity and the different kinds of services they provide for their clients. Studying the above mentioned characteristics, reports on agent business and analysing their activity we divide football agents in three different categories.
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1) FA licensed agents
Normally licensed agents (learn more here how to become one) represent players from 1st and 2nd division clubs in the top football markets and leagues. Most of the players are career contracted, which means that they stay with one agency or agent through their entire career.
Top agents have an extensive scouting network, which is always searching for top local, national and regional talents. They provide a 24/7 helpline to assist their clients and ensure their clients to only focus on football. Their range of services for clients – the contracted players – includes help with: specialist tax planning, insurance protection, mortgages, investments, pension schemes, accountancy and more. They also ensure that their clients are not receiving any negative press coverage and publicity. They offer advice and practical help to make sure that players will be able to look after themselves once their football careers finish.
There is around 7000 FIFA/FA licensed agents and only 41% of licensed agents work full-time, whereas the remaining ones also operate in different business sectors, primarily law and finance.
2) “Life-style” agents or scouts
They could be licensed or unlicensed agents and they normally represent players from professional division clubs in different football markets and leagues; from the 1st to regional division clubs, and from top football countries all the way to exotic football markets.
The duration and type of contract between a player and a respected agent depends on the player’s career options. Players change their representatives in favour of agents who can provide better transfer and contract opportunities within that national market, above all when the latter is particularly lucrative as for the “big five” leagues (the five major European championships).
To protect their interests, and by the way often also those of their protégés, »the life style agents« establish formal agreements with top class (FIFA licensed) agents to penetrate the markets where the latter operate. Such a partnership allows them to take advantage of their respective dominant position and maximize the potential on their best players.
Their range of services is more limited than that of the top FIFA licensed agent, yet they are able to provide all the necessary services to keep their clients satisfied.
Did you know?
The maximum of an official contract between a licensed agent and a player is 2 years? You can however, continue renewing this every 2 years if both agree.
3) “Sunday traders”
A Sunday trader is typically an unlicensed agent, collaborating with or working for a life-style agent or a licensed agent, as a local or even regional scout. By watching games, looking for young talents, they build their own network of contacts, which allows them to move (trade) players from lower division clubs on a local and regional level.
The contracts are not exclusive and not time defined. The goal is to transfer a player or to find him/her a club. The commissions are relatively small, but it is actually the quantity of transfers that counts. The more transfers they make, the better is their reputation…and the reputation is the most important characteristic of any agent. With fraudsters exploiting the players desire to do anything to play professionally, the key thing is trust and consequently reputation.
Sunday traders can set up a transfer of only one player to multiple transfers in the same transfer window. They are specialized in dealing free players outside the transfer window period. The portfolio of services they can provide for their clients is very limited, but they deliver the goods – the transfer.
Strong entry barriers exist for whoever aspires to work in the representation market. Although it is relatively easy to obtain the license to officially operate, the existence of established agents dominating the market has undoubtedly been until now an important hurdle for newcomers.
Did you know?
The representation market of top level league footballers is concentrated in the hands of a few intermediaries? Indeed, half of the players are clients of 83 individual agents or agencies (12% of those manage the career of at least one footballer in the “big five”), and one quarter of footballers are represented by only 24 out of more than 2400 licensed agents domiciled in the countries hosting the five major European championships.
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