The astronomical figures that are floated around each time a talented footballer is linked with a move away are the result of multiple factors including bumper TV broadcasting deals, huge commercial partnerships and the growing prevalence of state ownership in the game. However, another important factor that continues to affect how much every superstar football player gets paid is the role of football agents.
The public profile and general influence of agents in professional football has grown enormously in recent years. From the role played by individual agents in specific deals (Charlie Kane's management of his brother Harry's future at Tottenham Hotspur, for example) to the rise of the super agent that has seen the likes of Jorge Mendes and Mino Raiola become household names within the football-loving world, the image of the sports agent has shifted, with the importance of these figures becoming increasingly clear.
Jorge Mendes. Source: ©SPORTSFILE
In this article, we're going to shine some light on what a football agent does, taking you through the practical details of the role and examining what key skills and qualifications are needed. We'll provide you with a brief guide to becoming a successful football agent, before pointing you towards some courses and resources that can help you along that journey.
The main job of any football agent is simple: to look after all off-the-pitch matters so that the player they're representing can focus on what's happening on the pitch. This will mean different things to different people, but generally speaking the tasks listed below will all come under the remit of a typical football agent.
In order to find clients to represent, football agents need to be good at spotting new talent and identifying who they can bring into their roster. Getting talented footballers on your books is the first step toward becoming a respected agent who brings value to their clients.
Being able to negotiate contracts for players is essential, because sports agents live and die by their ability to secure the best possible deals for their clients. When they go into a contract negotiation — whether it's for a deal with a brand new club or a contract extension with their current side — they'll be looking to maximise the player's earnings, while also slipping crucial clauses into the contract, such as goal or appearance bonuses, or release clauses that ensure their player can move to a new team when the time is right.
Advancing the commercial appeal of a player is a crucial facet of the agent role, so the best agents will always be looking to strike up partnerships with relevant brands that lead to increased exposure and further cash injections. According to totalsportal, Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo earns a staggering $45m each year from sponsorship deals alone. This is an area that will be handled by agents.
Agents are also there as a general resource for the players they represent — if a player wants some guidance on everyday matters such as buying a car, sorting out their housing situation, or even just getting a dinner recommendation after moving into a new area, their agent will often be the first port of call.
Even more important than those everyday suggestions and nuggets of advice are the player's financial concerns, which fall firmly into the agent's bracket. Taking the stresses and pressures away from a player so that they can perform as well as possible on the soccer field is ultimately what agents are there for, so whether it's finding smart long-term investments for players to make or simply working out the best savings account to park their wages into, the financial guidance aspect of being an agent is super important.
A wide variety of skills are needed if you're to become an effective agent —here are a few that are non-negotiable.
So much of the job is about being able to communicate with people from different walks of life, understanding what persuades and motivates them and tailoring your interactions with each person so that you can continuously get your client the best deal possible. There's no way you can negotiate a great contract with a club's sporting director if you're not capable of having a meaningful, productive conversation with them in the first place.
Agents need to be savvy when it comes to striking up deals for their players, so business and legal acumen is essential. If you don't have a basic grasp of contract law or an understanding of how sports sponsorship deals tend to work, you'll struggle to find work with the best players.
This is less of a glamorous one, but it's just as essential as any other responsibility; being able to efficiently and accurately complete complex paperwork is a big part of the job. Sending and responding to emails and messages, arranging meetings, and sorting out various aspects of a player's career and personal life all require strong administrative and organisational skills.
As is the case in pretty much any industry, having a wide network of contacts working in football can be a massive help to any agent. Whether it's coaches or managers who you think might take an interest in your player, recruitment staff at other clubs, or other agents who help you keep up to date with the latest goings-on in the world of sports management, building up a portfolio of contacts can be super useful.
According to the PFSA, you don't need a formal education in order to become a football agent. However, there are some steps you can take to maximise your chances of success, and gaining certain qualifications is a huge part of that.
In December 2022, the FIFA Council approved new FIFA Football Agent Regulations (FFAR) that will have an impact on anyone looking to get into the agent profession. Crucially, from 1 October 2023 a new exam will be introduced that any prospective agents must pass in order to be able to act within this profession.
Lasting 60 minutes, the exam will consist of 20 multiple choice questions centred around "current football rules" (many of which will be taken from FIFA's official agent and transfer regulations) and exam takers will need to get 75% of questions right to ensure a passing grade.
While there's no requirement that football agents complete an undergraduate degree, this level of study can be extremely helpful when it comes to preparing you for the complex business procedures you'll inevitably face as an agent. Any relevant undergraduate degree — Sports Management, Business Management, and Sports Law are all great options — will increase your chances of success in this field.
FIFA aren't the only football governing body that offer training in how to work as an agent. Europe's governors UEFA also provide a 3-month course covering various aspects of the profession — scroll down for an in-depth guide to the UEFA Player Agent Programme.
While sometimes agents will represent just one player, usually they will be part of an agency (which must be registered with the English Football Association or its equivalent in other countries) and will have a wide portfolio of players they represent. The larger this portfolio is, the more sources of income an agent will have, meaning earnings can vary immensely.
Generally speaking, agents will work on a commission basis, getting between 1-10% of earnings depending on the client. Per Premier League client, it's estimated that an agent will earn between £1,200 and £550,000 each year. If you've got several clients on your books, your earnings can quickly become substantial, and the more high-profile they are, the more you'll be paid.
Everyone's path in this industry is slightly different, but below are some pretty universal steps that will help you in your journey toward becoming an agent.
As we mentioned earlier, having an understanding of how contract law works and how the worlds of business and football intertwine is essential for any agent. These are subjects that you can find out more about through online research, with sites like LawInSport offering expert commentary and analysis on international sports law.
An undergraduate degree can help unlock doors in many different ways; in the football industry, having a qualification in Law, Business, Sports Management or any other related field can not only boost your CV, it can also help you develop core agent-adjacent skills and allow you to network in this area of the game.
Networking is incredibly important — it's vital that agents have good interpersonal skills, and those people will the best communication abilities will inevitably build up a wider network of people who could help them secure clients and work further down the line. Constantly look to grow your network of contacts as you build your career.
All football agents must be registered. If you’re based England, you must register with the Football Association as an intermediary. As part of this registration, you'll take a 'test of good character and reputation', and you'll have a criminal record check too. If you're all cleared, the cost of the registration is £500.
The UEFA Player Agent Programme is a three-month course that uses master classes, interviews, case studies, simulations and insights from UEFA experts to teach students how to kickstart a prosperous career as an agent. The goal is to make students proficient at negotiating and closing deals and managing players with care and ethics. However, it's an expensive programme, costing €7900, and to take it you need both fluency in written and spoken English and at least two years' work experience in the football industry as an intermediary, scout or professional player. Check out the course here.
Born out of proposals from different agent associations around the world, this new initiative is FIFA's first educational programme for football agents. It's mostly online, with the course focusing on FIFA regulations, client representation, principles, negotiation skills, client communication, and more. Get all the details here.
If you want a broader view over the industry football agents operate in, check out our Football Education Hub, where you'll find a database of over 150 business courses covering the likes of Marketing, Finance, Sponsorship, Sports and Management.
If you'd like to find out more about sports law, an area of the industry that has close ties to the work of the player agent, check out our interview with international sports lawyer Jessie Engelhart.