By Kerys Harrop
As the summer transfer window comes to a close after lots of transfer activity across the women’s game, it has made me think about the role that agents have in helping players find a new club or negotiating a contract at their current club.
When I first started out in my professional career, there weren’t many players with agents and players generally accepted the offers they were given by the club they were at. There may have been a bit of room for negotiation, but as there wasn’t much money in the women’s game back then, players were happy with what they were offered.
To go from getting paid only travel expenses and maybe a win bonus, to then being paid as a full-time footballer, was a big deal and so players never really questioned what they were offered.
As the financial investment in the women’s game has grown so has the involvement of agents.
It crazy to hear now of the number of players that have an agent; I could probably count on my hand the number of players that don’t have one. It is a sad reality that some of these agencies are just signing up as many players as possible to their agency to make as much money as possible. In my eyes, the result is the quality of support to players is lost, as it is impossible to provide a good service to such a large quantity of players.
I understand why players choose to have an agent, as the players don’t have the network to clubs that agents have. From speaking to some of my friends in the game, what I struggle to understand is the process about how players choose their agent. It also saddens me to say that many of the girls don’t get looked after as well as they (and I) think they should.
I ask them, “How often do you speak to your agent?; How often do they come to watch your games?; Do you have a good relationship with your agent?; Do you feel they look after you?; Have you even met them face-to-face?”
For some of the girls I speak to the answers are positive, but for the most part these answers are negative. For me that is an issue and something that I am passionate about. It angers me to hear negative experiences, but a lot of the time the girls are just accepting of it as they think it is normal and they don’t know any different.
There are some brilliant agents in the game, but for those agents that may read this and look at the questions above, if you deep down know that your players couldn’t answer these questions with positive answers about you, then I think you should take the time to really reflect on the service that you provide to your players.
I haven’t used an agent for the large part of my professional career. I have always negotiated my contract myself. Not many players do this and I probably only know a small number that do.
It surprises me really, as I think that as you get older and have a few contracts under your belt over the years, you pretty much know what you are worth and the kind of money you can be asking for based on your previous contracts. The clubs will put in an offer and then from there you can go about the negotiations.
I guess that a lot of players aren’t confident to do that, or to even put together an email back to a general manager or head coach, but for me it was never really a problem. The fact I stayed at one club for a long time, and then knew the general manager of my most recent club, definitely made it easier for me to sort my own contract as I already had the contacts.
The advice from my situation that I would pass on to other players is to build good relationships with coaches and backroom staff at your club, as you never know when you might come across them again in your career. As you get older you realise the importance of networking and to just be a nice person to the people you come across every day, as you never know when you might need them in the future.
When I do eventually retire from football, my ambition is to continue to be a mentor at Player 4 Player. At that time, if players require my services to help them find a club then I will happily represent them as an agent.
I see the agent role as much more than a “contract negotiator” and only contacting or seeing my players every two years when their contract is up (I feel a number of agents should be called this). It means I will look after players properly, giving them the time and effort that they deserve and to make them feel valued. I also will encourage the players to make their own decisions about their career and to take more ownership over their football journey.
There are some great agents out there who do this, but unfortunately there are many others that don’t.
For players looking to find an agent, I hope to advise them about the research they should do in choosing their agent and not just go with one that their friend is with.
They should choose an agent that takes the time and effort to get to know them as a player and a person. In time, as the players gain more experience and knowledge, I hope to encourage them to understand that they don’t need an agent and they can negotiate their contracts themselves.
The players themselves benefit as they pocket a bit of extra money that may have gone to the agent, and the clubs are happy as they don’t have to pay out agent fees for these players in the future. More money kept within the game means more money to spend on things that really matter to help the clubs grow and improve their players.
I am excited for my future with Player 4 Player and I hope to have a positive impact on as many players in the professional game as possible. Within reason of course, remember…quality over quantity!