Paul Parker

Agent culture needs to change

Paul Parker

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Now that Wayne Rooney has signed a new contract at Manchester United, Alex Ferguson has bemoaned the role agents play in the game today.

Ferguson's quotes are canny, as it switches the emphasis away from his player now that he is staying at the club. Last week, he expressed his dismay that Rooney wanted to leave, firmly putting the blame on the striker for wanting out of the club that made him a world star.

Now that Rooney has put pen to paper, however, Fergie has switched the attention on to player representatives, in order to restore Rooney's standing among the rest of the squad and the club's fans.

He does have a point, though. When I was a player, not everyone had agents. Some had a lawyer or an accountant, but others didn't bother at all. Even when players did take representatives into a contract negotiation with them, it was all handled in the right way, with both sides respectful of one another.

These days, it seems that most agents are in the business for one reason only - to make money off the backs of others.

Of course, there are plenty of good guys out there, who genuinely care about the welfare of their clients, but from my experience it seems the majority are all too happy to try and gain an unwarranted fee by aggressively demanding new deals or touting a move for a player when it is not necessary.

Part of the problem is the way the FIFA licences are handed out. There are so many people out there who have a certain level of accreditation which enables them to go around, stirring things up with players, clubs and the media, and the only thing they are not allowed to do is go into an official negotiation. It's not uncommon for a player to have one main agent and several others sounding out interest among their own contacts. The system needs a major overhaul, in my opinion.

Another issue is the way that the parents of promising young footballers are being approached when their kids are barely in their teens, sometimes even before.

The most important thing for a child developing their game is for them to enjoy their football, free from any pressure of over-competitiveness. But when they have strangers approaching their parents, saying how much he could earn if he went here or there, it can heap pressure on a kid and their family.

How can you enjoy your football, let alone your childhood, when you are seeing adults make decisions that will affect your life without even asking what you think is best?

The culture of agents in modern football has now crept into every level of the game. Of course, young players need sound advice as clubs can be ruthless with those who don't make the grade - but too many agents oversee a teenager's first professional deal with a view to their potentially lucrative future rather than acting in their best interests.

When I signed my first professional contract at Fulham after years there as a youth player, I sat down with the manager, Malcolm Macdonald, and signed what was put in front of me.

I did try to get a little bit more up front, I must admit, but it was all done between the two of us. In the end I was just happy to be getting more than the £16 a week I had been on as an apprentice! 

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