In defence of the football agent

They drive up player prices, cause players to leave clubs who they were previously happy with, and have even started to actually own player rights, as in the case of Carlos Tevez, or now David Luiz. The Brazilian defender is set to move to Chelsea but Benfica will receive just 30% of the fee for their star player, as he is owned by a third party.

Agents are not the evil they are cracked up to be. They are generally the third parties that football teams detest, against whom much anger is lashed out in defence of ‘the game’ from which they are seen to be scrounging off. Questions are perpetually posed asking why they insist on ruining our beloved sport not just with their presence, but their complete contempt for loyalty, decency or most of all, football’s loyal fans.

I saw one speak last Sunday at an event at White Hart Lane. Barry Silkman. A journeyman footballer turned agent, he told me and the audience something I personally never paused for two seconds to consider. Agents have opinions. Of course they have views, and actually, given an open and enquiring mind, their arguments can be quite pertinent.

One of Silkman’s best points was about the perpetual gripe about agents taking money out of the game. The reality is, as he pointed out in his typically to-the-point and engaging style, that every salary paid in football takes money out of the game. A player’s wage takes money out of the game. When John Terry collects his £200,000 a week from Chelsea, he does not reinvest it all in football, if any at all. Whether it is spent on fancy cars, watches, champagne or presents to pacify his wife, John Terry’s salary, like every other salary in football, takes money out of the game.

A good agent will also ensure that the player is not fleeced by his club. The average footballer has enough trouble constructing a sentence, let alone wading through pages of complex legal issues arising from signing a contract.

And more than that, a football agent can not only make themselves money, but often they can make money for clubs as well as players. Mark Schwarzer was struggling in Australia when Silkman went to see him perform. He brought him over to England and he has gone on to become one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the Premier League. Bradford City signed him and made significant money on him when he moved to Middlesbrough. This is the side of an agent’s work that you rarely see, and without good agents, there are some players like Schwarzer who will go unnoticed.

And the common anger about agents ignores the reality of the situation in which players found themselves in times gone by. As Silkman put it, “20 years ago players got shafted” and that would still be going on now if it was not for the football agent. Of course there are the leeches who will convince a player that they need an extra £10k a week when they’re on £100,000 already, but there are also decent agents. Agents who make money not just for themselves, but for players and clubs too. Those agents are worth every penny.