I spent yesterday in Glasgow. We have players at Rangers, so I travelled up to spend a bit of time with one of them and to watch their game against Dumbarton. Next up are meetings in Germany and in the Netherlands, where one of our clients is on loan. I’ll get back home on Saturday morning, and head straight to Nottingham to watch Forest play Fulham.
There is a perception that agents simply exist to negotiate new contracts or lucrative transfers for their players, that we appear periodically to take money out of football and then disappear again. That could not be farther from the truth. It is a job that never stops. It can be 24/7. Family life suffers. There are no complaints and we love our work, but it is relentless.
Every agency does things differently, but in our case, we have 17 staff — five of whom work full time in our player services department. They handle anything that a player may need off the pitch, a full management service, from helping to find the right financial advice for a client to planning their wedding.
We stay in touch with clients and their families on a regular basis. We are there as a sounding board, as a support network, as a source of advice. Sometimes our experience can help a player to find some perspective, rather than react every day to what is happening in training and games.
We work with the clubs to get feedback from managers, particularly for younger players. Older clients need help with sponsors, tax advisers, financial managers, sports lawyers and, of course, the media. It is a fine line: they are young men. They need to be protected, but they also need to grow up, to take some responsibility.
There is a misunderstanding about how UK-based agents earn money. It is not a cut of transfer fees: that would be classed as third-party ownership and against FA rules. Most, instead, take a set fee — usually, but not always, about 5 per cent — from the player’s wages.
A good agent earns that money not only by becoming a tremendous asset to a client, but also a big help to their club. Players are valuable. It makes sense to ensure they get the best advice possible. That’s not always easy. Players have to make tough decisions. The pressure at times can be intense, especially during the transfer window. The agents who succeed tend to be the ones who deal with that pressure best. In most cases, that is how they give value for money for their clients.
● Warwick Horton is joint managing director of Key Sports Management