Every now and then the corruption of football agents is a hot topic in the world of football. It seems that it has become a widespread and generally accepted practice that football agents do not mind the conflicts of interest they are being confronted with. Also the fact that agents pay kick-backs to the sports directors, managers or presidents of football clubs does no longer seem to raise any eyebrows.
The major victims of this situation situation are the football players. As long as players are not themselves responsible for paying their agents, conflicts of interests and corruption will remain.
Why do agents not defend the interests of their clients? As agents need the clubs in the future for other transfers or other clients, they do not wish to jeopardize their good relationship. As a consequence, they agree with the club that they will not try to negotiate the best possible deal for the player. The relationship with the club is often far more important for the agent than his relationship with the player. Agents tend to look for the best possible commercial deal, which implies not having the best deal for their client.
This situation can deteriorate when the agent gets a success fee from the selling club in case of a future transfer of the player. Moreover, it is practically impossible for a player to be aware of this construction between his agent and the club.
Why is this dangerous? In case the agent gets a success fee for transferring the player, the agent has maximum interest to sell the player at the highest price (the higher the transfer fee, the higher the success fee). However, the higher the transfer fee, the lower the salary that is left for the player at his new club.
If you do not know which agent you should work with, never rely on the reference of the club for choosing an agent. A club will always try to refer you to an agent who works in in the interest of the club, which by definition contradicts with your interests.
Solution – Players
For the players, the easiest solution would be to work with an intermediary who is being paid by themselves and not by the club. This intermediary should not be the intermediary who brought the deal to the player. The role of the agent of the player (and the only role) should be to protect the player to the fullest extent and to negotiate the best possible deal.
His role will thus be to increase the budget for the player (and not take into consideration his relationship with the club). To guarantee his independence from the club and the other agent, this agent would need (i) to be paid by the player and (ii) never act on behalf of the club in previous or future deals.
There is only one good solution to solve the corruption within the business football agents. FIFA should rule that the players are responsible to pay their agents themselves in order to guarantee full independence and protection. As long as FIFA does not intervene in this matter as such, corruption and conflicts of interest will never disappear.