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FIFA Agents – from considered development to the trafficking of children

 Editorial cock-up note:

We recently started to publish a three part series on Fifa registered agents.  It is a topic that takes us to the very heart of the transfer market and the way it is working.

Unfortunately due to a clerical cock-up by someone (ie Tony) we published parts one and two, and then instead of part 3, part one was re-run.

So if you missed the series thus far, or got utterly confused, here are the links to the first two parts.

Part 1  What do FIFA registered agents do

Part 2  Gestifute The route to success

And now here is part 3:   FIFA Agents within the big five – the good, the bad, the ugly.

As stated in previous articles the big five is made up of Germany, Spain, France, Italy and England.

These are the leagues in which players can earn the highest wages (Russia soon to be the exception) across the professional game. With higher wages, comes a higher transfer fee or the other way around if you prefer, the driving forces behind these are two fold, TV money and rich benefactors.  Clubs that wish to compete within their own means face a playing field that is growing more uneven as time passes and I don’t just mean financially.

The football agent/agency is growing in stature and importance so much so that a single agent with a concentration of players at a club could cause havoc if they wished and I believe we have already seen this with Darren Dein (although of course there may be other explanations as to what has happened over the years at Arsenal).

On top of this we have regulations within the different competitions a team may enter, with the varying nature of the squads they can submit. With age and home grown rules, that has inadvertently directed clubs, private academies and scouting networks to ever younger targets.

The biggest nation within the big five by population and wealth is Germany.  The largest agencies within Germany are  Sports Total, pro profil, and Rogon sport management.

Now Sports Total is an interesting agency as they openly admit that they are primarily interested in the youth of today to mould in to the stars of tomorrow, they involve themselves in the education of kids from an early age through schooling and in to football. They do seem responsible, and maybe one of the better agencies out there. Through researching this agency’s client list, it seems to me that this agency encourages their clients to stay within Germany and not seek the big money move to utopia as they are already within the big five. I have found no evidence of any other network but that within Germany.

Pro profil, are another agency in the mould of Sports Total they employ local German scouts, qualified coaches, German registered agents as well as one FIFA registered agent. They offer a whole range of services from financial services to private physiotherapy and the usual services of contract negotiations and endorsement deals, some of their staff played football at the highest level in Germany for Bayern and Dortmund and at international level.

Their leading clients are Manuel Neuer and Shinji Kagawa. They seem to have a localised network but by looking at their client list they must also have a close working relations with a Japanese agent/agency or scouts working within Japan and Asia. So again we may see localised networks from different parts of the world working together hence the need for one FIFA registered agent on their books.

Rogon Sport management, another agency that seems to look out for their clients, they have a lot of young players on their books who have been released from several clubs and yet they keep finding new clubs for them within European leagues in the hope that their clients can make it within the game.

They also have some big names like Kevin prince Boateng, Luiz Gastavo, as well as a young lad I hoped Wenger would sign but he moved to Russia; Mario Fernandes. Again this agency liaises with parents at every decision making point and even have dieticians on board and will help with the re-location of a whole family if their client is transferred (I have found no evidence of this company moving 16 year olds from Brazil to any European academies).

They have two offices in Brazil, one in Germany and another in the states, a private international organisation set up to take advantage of the differing markets within football, similar to arbitrage within the financial sectors low risk, high profits.

The failing points for outsiders of this industry are that it is a closed market. Rogon openly admit on their website that they will not consider anyone for employment if they have not been in the industry in a professional capacity for many years, which from the client perspective is positive as you want to be guided by experience but this highlights the closed nature of the industry even within what I would consider a reputable business model.

Overall German agents/agencies, which I have looked in to seem to have the interests of their clients at heart. They employ fully qualified coaches as well as ex-players as scouts who have a good local knowledge and work closely with parents when they spot a talented youngster. Finding information on these German based agents was fairly easy and they seem to be quite open with their client lists, other agents/agencies from the big five are not so open.

I would like to draw your attention to the business model of the agencies I have described above; we start with a scouting network made up of ex-players whose judgement will be trusted by his employer and most importantly the parents of young talented footballers. They will sign a target with the promise of “DIRECTION” in his young career. He will be well advised by the agencies advisers who have trodden his path.

The young footballer will be made aware of the sacrifices that have to be made to become a top professional footballer and the pitfalls of a young disciplined life.  If the youngster is not already with a club the agent/agency will recommend him to one of their local contacts (clubs academies). If the young lad makes it in to professional football the agent/agency will be there to represent the young man and advise him on his career choices, if he has to find a new club the agent will do this for him unless he is being head-hunted by another club in which case the agent/solicitors job is to get the best for his client.

A lot of the time the agent is ever-present throughout the footballer’s career.  “UTOPIA” I hear you cry.  But no, not really. I use Germany as an example of good agents/agencies not because they are all good examples of how a private organisation within football can be run but because Germany does not have the same in-depth history of colonisation as some other European nations. A subject I will go in to further detail at a later date.

Everything has an opposite.

1. An intermediary spots a – usually young – player and promises to have him recruited by a European club. In most cases these players, who wish to emulate their idols, practice their sport in informal settings which are not easy to monitor.

2. The intermediary asks the player’s family for money in exchange for finding a “placement” for him in Europe. Sometimes the player’s family will sell all their possessions or take out a loan to pay the intermediary, in the hope of receiving a quick return on their investment.

3. The player arrives in Europe, in most cases with a one-month tourist visa. The travel conditions are often illegal (e.g. travelling as a stowaway in a ship) and dangerous (excessively long journeys, dehydration, hypothermia, etc.).

4. Once he arrives in Europe, the player is either abandoned or “put to the test” by several clubs, which are not necessarily those promised by the intermediary. He is taken from one club to another until the intermediary is satisfied or gives up the process.

5. If the tests are successful, the player signs a (usually, short-term) contract with the club (in fact, very often the intermediary encourages the player to sign a short-term contract). The contract is often precarious and its terms are disadvantageous to the player. If the player no longer has a contract with a club, the intermediary often “drops him”.

6. If the player does not pass any of the tests and is not recruited by a club, the intermediary usually abandons him to his fate.

7. In principle, an intermediary who brings a player to Europe should bear the costs of his stay as well as all travel costs, including the return fare to the country of origin. However, many intermediaries will abandon the player if the tests with the clubs do not lead to a contract.

With no money, no connections and often unable to speak the language of the country where he stays, the abandoned player usually has no choice but to remain in Europe in an irregular situation, i.e. without a work permit or a stay permit. He will end up doing undeclared, casual jobs for a living, possibly sending part of his earnings to his family back home. Most often, the player is unable to return to his country of origin because he cannot afford the fare or because he does not wish to return, since this would be perceived as failure by his family, which made sacrifices for him.

In general, it is apparent that very few players from these countries are recruited or given a contract in relation to the high numbers who travel to Europe – which results in a large population of destitute persons who are reluctant to return to their countries of origin and who try to remain in Europe at any price.

This is where we need to differentiate between the different methods at work to achieve the same goal. There are many underlying issues at work here, but the big five and other European leagues are a target for this desperate act of human betrayal.

As I have stated before you need a local agent/agency that has local permanent connections (a network) built over time within his area to introduce a player to a club. We see various networks within multiple territories working with those from other territories.

Unlicensed agents, academies and coaches in Africa and South America working with licensed/unlicensed agents and solicitors in Europe usually follow the format of old colonies exporting talent to the old ruling nations where obtaining visas or permits to work are easier to come by due to historic links or arrangements between former colonies and their European counterparts.

I have already shown you a route in to Europe from South America with the players entering Portugal.  I will later show you routes in to Europe from many African countries in to France, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Greece and more I can even show you old links within Europe itself with Austrian agents/agencies targeting Slovakia, Hungary, Poland , Czech republic, Croatia and other old nations that used to make up the Austro-Hungarian empire. It’s a weird occurrence to come across, seeing these old links so ingrained in to today’s mentalities something we thought we removed ourselves from.

The clubs also have to be complicit in registering a player for the first time. Hopefully TMS (transfer matching system) will make this “trafficking of sportsmen” in football near impossible. After all TMS was primarily set up to protect minors within football and deals solely in international transfers.

So I ask if there is no problem of this sort within football, why the need for a tracking system? Robert Beroud who heads up Olympique Lyonnais academy stated “we are regularly approached by traffickers who try to sell us 13-or 14-year-olds as if they were commodities”. There is an industry for the illegal importation of minors in to European football and has been for years, however if the clubs had said no from the beginning then there wouldn’t be a market for them, but there is? So some clubs must be or have been complicit.

It is this effect on European football that highlights the need for much more stringent regulation of FIFA registered agents and player tracking. European football is being used in the trafficking of minors which may or may not be the fault of registered agents, but it exists none the less.

So for the protection of foreign children FIFA needs to highly regulate its agents, players and clubs. Will this give FIFA more power?  Probably but what other choices do we have when faced with this form of criminal activity? With the European parliament dragging its feet with FIFA and allowing it to be treated differently from other industries, it is no wonder we face problems of race discrimination as well as the “trafficking of sportsmen”.

No other legal industry operates in the same manner as football and no other industry would be allowed to operate in this way, so why football, what is its “specific nature” why are we so willing to allow this sport to be set aside and treated differently. Why are football governing bodies seemingly exempt from some EU legislation? Also why should fans at football matches adhere to any rules when the governing bodies of the sport get exemptions from the highest courts in Europe?

Written by

Adam Brogden

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The books…

Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years

Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910

“The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal”: crowd behaviour at the early matches

The sites…

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The weight loss programme: The only guaranteed wayto stay fit

Looking for a terraced house in Northamptonshire?

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 comments to FIFA Agents – from considered development to the trafficking of children

  • avatar chris from Cambridge

    Interesting and distressing.

  • avatar bjtgooner

    Adam, this is a great series and very revealing. You have rightly identified a major weakness in the European Parliamentary bureaucracy – who allow the exploitation of these children and yet pollute the legislative fields with OTT safety directives.

    I am not sure how much further you plan to extend the series, but if appropriate, what I would be very interested in would be details of and interactions between some of our EPL agents and especially concerning Dein the Lesser.

    Thanks for the series so far.

  • avatar nicky

    Adam,
    This trafficking of sportsmen, particularly in football, is all part of the malaise with which sport has been steadily infected since the end of WW2.
    As much of the world sought to recover from the carnage of conflict, there began a natural quest for the more materialistic forms of peaceful achievement and success.
    There followed the inevitable professionalism which has now become an integral and major part of all sport.
    A typical example is the inclusion of non-amateur sportsmen in the Olympics. And, of course, the introduction of leeches (known as agents) attaching themselves firmly to professional sportsmen and women of all codes.
    The old adage that “The love of money is the root of all evil” is never truer than it is today and until there is some form of sanity introduced into the financial side of professional sport, particularly football……capped wages, reduced ticket prices, contracts that are respected, etc, etc, sport will continue to be on a downward spiral to monetary disaster.

  • avatar Adam

    bjtgooner. Im researching the “transfer matching system” which replaces the rules governing agents, Yes FIFA are doing away with regulating agents which is what im building up to which will cover the likes of Dein. I have shown you what the Germans do as registered agents and I have shown you what can happen outside of FIFAs grasp what I have yet to show you is the rise of private academies in England and other areas. FIFA have admitted that they cannot enforce their regs so are using a monitoring system for the professional game. They in their wisdom have decided to separate the Professional game and the amateur game something I have been banging on about for a while.

  • avatar bjtgooner

    @Adam

    Thanks for the info.