(*Editor’s Note. This article was completely rewritten and updated February 20, 2016.)
Being a soccer agent is perhaps one of the most desired professions in contemporary soccer.
Glamour, wealth, travels and parties are first things that meet the eye, but behind the stylish facade there is hard work, dedication, commitment, perseverance, stress and more hard work.
Roughly explained and defined, a player’s agent is a ‘natural person who, for a fee, introduces players to clubs with a view to negotiating or renegotiating an employment contract or introduces two clubs to another with a view to concluding a transfer agreement, in compliance with the provisions set forth in there regulations’.
That is how the football’s governing body FIFA defines a soccer agent.
In reality, a soccer agent, or football as is it commonly called in Europe, is much more than a suit and a tie, much more than a person which introduces players to clubs trying to arrange a deal and negotiate a transfer.
Modern soccer/football agent has become a confidant, a liaison, an associate and more often a family member.
An agent takes care of a player’s well-being, sorts out various aspects of a player’s daily matters and all of that so the player can focus and concentrate on his game and on-pitch performance.
If you are considering an option to become a soccer agent, registration will probably be the first thing that will pop up to your mind.
FIFA Congress decided in 2009 to perform an in-depth reform of the existing players’ agents system in order to address several shortfalls identified within the system, most of all the inefficient licencing resulting from many international transfer being carried out without the use of a licenced agent.
Also, FIFA recognised that even those transfers that were concluded with the use of a licenced agent were not often transparent and verifiable, so they decided to redefine the system.
Players’ agent may only be allowed to carry out his or hers activities if they are licenced by the relevant associations.
Up until 2001, agents were required to register with FIFA, but since then licencing and registration are being issued by the applicant’s respective National Football Association (FA). In case of applicants with dual or multiple nationality, the most recently acquired nationality comes into play when it comes to issuing the agent’s licence.
The applicant is required to submit a written application for a players’ agent licence to the relevant association and the applicant must be a person of an impeccable reputation.
FIFA Regulations Players’ Agents stipulates that an applicant may not, under any circumstances, hold a position as an official, employee etc. at FIFA and other official football organisations and entities.
If an applicant satisfies the required criteria for becoming a soccer agent, the national association shall invite the candidate to take a written examination.
Exams are held twice a year in March and September, while the exact dates are determined by FIFA in January and June.
Examination process is organised by the association and is held under the general supervision of FIFA. Exams are set as a multiple-choice test consisting of twenty questions and all applicants are tested on different regulatory and law subjects.
Soccer agent candidate will need to demonstrate the knowledge of the current football regulation, particularly those in relation to football transfers. Also, the knowledge of civil law and the law of obligations is required.
When a soccer agent candidate passes the examination, the last step away from obtaining a licence is acquiring the professional liability insurance made out in his or hers own name with a reputable insurance company.
The insurance is meant to adequately cover and compensate any risks that may occur from the players’ agent’s activity and it also covers any damage that may incur with the termination of the agents’ activity.
Each national association issuing the agent’s licence is required to check the compliance of the professional liability insurance with the regulations.
There is a way to obtain the insurance in a different manner.
Instead of the professional liability insurance, an applicant may also provide a bank guarantee from a Swiss bank for a minimum amount of CHF 100,000 which will be issued and accompanied by an irrevocable statement that the guaranteed amount shall be paid out unconditionally if a player, a club or another agent has suffered damages as a result from the players’ agent’s activity.
Once all requirements have been met, you are free to embark on your soccer agent’s journey.
Representation and Contracts
Looking for players to represent is another step you will need to take. If you do not have a good reputation associated with your name already then you will most likely be watching a lot of minor league teams searching for the next big thing before you discover a proper gem.
Young stars are discovered all the time, many clubs and football leagues even survive through a year mainly by selling young and promising talents.
Tapping into the lucrative business requires time and, once again, hard work.
Having found the players you will be representing and before engaging in any official intermediary activity on behalf of your player or a club, both parties will be required to agree on a Representation contract.
Such a contract must contain the names of the parties involved, nature of legal relationship, scope of services, the duration of agreement, date of completion, termination provisions and signatures.
If the player is a minor then the player’s legal guardian will also sign the representation contract in compliance with the national law of the country in which the player is domicile.
Income and Revenue
Once you have started your career as a soccer agent, incomes are the next issue you will be concerned about.
Your general incomes and revenue will depend upon whether you operate within an agency or as an independent contractor.
First option will most likely provide you a fixed salary, but if you work on your own then your income will be based upon the income of your player and the contract you sign with them. As an agent, the more money you bring to your player, the bigger cut you will be able to take.
The best way to move up the ladder is to fight for your promising players to make it into a league.
Each move forward you make is a good one, each new promising young star you get signed on to any league is just more credibility for you. Earning that credibility will not only have leagues and teams trusting your word, but new recruits will hear of your success and gladly sign up with you and, ultimately, your income will rise.
You may start out signing a few players on a couple of lower leagues for a small amount of money per game or per week. This is going to make your income small as well, but it’s a step in the right direction.
If you’ve ever heard of a “finder’s fee” or “handling fee” that’s exactly what an agent will be getting for their player.
Each time your rising star is paid you get a pre-determined cut of the earnings, a percentage of what they make, usually around 10%, which gets prearranged in the representation contract you sign with your player.
However, the new rules recommend a payment of 3% of the player’s basic gross income or 3% of the transfer fee involved in a deal when your player change clubs.
Money and glory come hand in hand in modern football times.
Driven by fame and not by passion not a few agents are destined to fail at the very starts of their careers. Being a man of sport and a true football lover is the main prerequisite you will need to possess if you want to make it in the flashy world of successful soccer/football agents.
One such agent, and the second most powerful sports agent according to Forbes is Jorge Mendes.
Triple winner of the FIFA’s Agent of the year award given by his peers, Jorge Mendes is most recognizable of them all. With the total of 80 football players under the wing of his Gestifute International agency, Jorge Mendes is dealing with contracts worth nearly a billion dollars – $956.4 million, to be precise.
Once a DJ when his soccer career ended prematurely, Mendes focuses primarily on Portuguese players and is headlined by Real Madrid star player Cristiano Ronaldo, among many others.
A look in the future of a soccer agents’ business offers a blurry skyline.
With football becoming a more profitable industry as days go by, it is hard to predict what the future holds for the soccer agents, especially for the young talents waiting to dive in the murky waters of football dealings.
With the emergence of online platforms such as Fieldoo, which are revolutionizing the scouting process offering the combination of social media and traditional scouting practices to the players from both amateur and professional football market with the aim of kick-starting their careers, the role of a soccer agent as an individual remains under the spotlight.
FIFA themselves took steps to bring innovation to the world of players’ representation and the introduction of a ban for the third-party ownership has already sent the shockwaves within the football community.
Third-party ownership of players’ economic rights (TPO) refers to third-party investments in the economic rights of professional football players, potentially in order to receive a share of the value of any future transfer of those players.
It has been debated at various levels and the ban will without a doubt redefine the representation process as we have known it so far.