Darren and I were chatting last week and we realized that it’s been some time since I had posted anything on the site, so I wanted to remedy that with this new article.
This article is posted in the hope that it provides athletes with a way to more accurately assess the skills of an offer from various types of agents.
For example, anyone doing any research on me will quickly see that I have a strong background in the law, so one would expect my skills to be strong apropos contracts, negotiation, drafting, professionalism and presentation. But does that make me a good agent? Is the agent who is a former player without as much formal education and experience necessarily a weaker negotiator than me? Is he less well-versed in the nuances of contract law? Can he pick out a future star as well as me simply because he has played professionally for many years? Am I any less able to find the diamond in the rough simply because I spent my formative working years in Court rather than on the rainy, muddy and wind-swept soccer pitches of England?
I will readily concede that one of my weaknesses on which I have worked very hard is identifying young players who may have what it takes to play professionally at some point in the future. Unearthing young talent is a key component of any agent’s practice. But there is a vast difference between noticing a player who is playing well in that game and in spotting someone who has the raw materials and can go on to forge a career. When coupled with the myriad factors involved in making it professionally then, this can suddenly seem a daunting task.
My solutions have been two-fold. Firstly, there is no substitute for actually getting out there and watching as many games as possible. DVDs only take one so far. Being present during the game is vital. The more games one watches, with one’s agent hat on rather than punter, the more I have been able to build up an accurate picture of youth soccer and, over time, been able to make more accurate and informed judgments on players.
Secondly, being humble enough to ask the opinion of others – namely, coaches. My company currently represents a number of coaches, some of whom are experts in youth development. I have done a good job for them in the past and they are delighted to receive DVDs of players on whom I would like their feedback. It can really mean the difference between investing time and resources into a player who may never make it and, on the other side of that chain of reasoning, between having a reliable and experienced 2nd opinion to back up my own thoughts on the player.
So, what can a former player who is now acting as an agent offer? You can expect him to have a lot more contacts earlier on his career than someone like me who had to build everything up from the bottom over a period of time. He may or may not have the same presentation skills and may place less emphasis on the quality of the written work. Maybe it would be useful for him to take a presentation skills course to improve these skills. He will most likely have greater access to better young players earlier on due to the fact he has just finished his playing career and is making the transition from playing to representation, so if you’re an unknown young player then he may already have a complete portfolio of young players and be less willing to take a chance on you. Whilst there is the prestige of being represented by a former big name, does this mean that you will get the personal touch you as a player want and deserve? Equally, there is no guarantee that someone without a playing background will give you the requisite attention.
I’ve had players come to me from other agents with stories about what took place which led to them leaving. I have no doubt that the player is telling the truth and, equally, that the other agent was doing his job properly and professionally but it didn’t work out based on a number of factors…but mainly chemistry. What works for one player and one agent may not be appropriate for the agent and the second player. Likewise, I’ve had 1 or 2 of my clients ask if they could leave the agency or speak to other agents. There is never bad blood, because as much as this is a personal relationship based on trust, it’s also a business deal and there’s no sense in preventing a client from looking elsewhere.
For me, the absolute bottom line is chemistry with my clients. If we’re not getting along well, then I will have no hesitation in terminating the contract and allowing both parties to walk away. I love this game too much, and am deeply fortunate to be able to earn a living doing something I love, to allow it to be hindered by a client with an attitude problem. If it’s not working out, as sometimes happens, then there’s nothing wrong with walking away. Neither party should be unhappy when the excitement of building a successful career together can be incredibly fulfilling.
In summary, I would say that there are really no sure things and perhaps this article has achieved the opposite of what I set out to accomplish – to pose more questions than provide answers! But I hope it’s helped somebody, somewhere, if they are weighing up which type of agent to appoint.
Max Eppel is a soccer Players’ Agent Licensed by The FA. His company is Max Eppel Soccer Agency LLC and has offices in Newport Beach, CA and London, UK. For further information click on www.maxeppelsocceragency.com.