The lion tamer, the football agent and the recruitment firm

No this isn’t a modernised version of the C.S. Lewis classic, but David Leen discusses the similarities between football agents and recruitment consultants.

Like most sane people I am a great fan of Monty Python. Oddly for a comedy series that only lasted four series they managed to create three recruitment sketches. My favourite was one entitled “The Lion Tamer” and featured an accountant who wanted to become a lion tamer. Whilst lion taming wasn’t my chosen career goal, there was a time when I thought long and hard about being a football agent – yes really.

Football really is world of recruitment on an industrial scale. Let me give you some stats (everyone who follows sport loves a stat or 144.6 of them). Last year the entire Premier League paid football agents a combined amount just shy of £130m, the smallest amount was paid by Bournemouth which would seem right for a team newly promoted and on limited resources, but the most was not paid by Manchester United, Chelsea or Manchester City. It was Liverpool at £14.3m. These are astounding figures. By April this year, Manchester United had shot back into first place and Aston Villa were fourth in the agent’s league table, a long way from their place in the Premier League which ultimately ended in relegation.

So who are the movers and shakers?

Top of the pile is Jorge Mendes, he is probably the greatest recruitment consultant that has ever lived. He represents some of the biggest names in world football (Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho and Diego Costa). The figures are difficult to determine but he has brokered deals of between €0.5-1bn during his stellar career.

The top person is the UK is Jonathan Barnett who masterminded the Gareth Bale deal from Tottenham to Real Madrid and now represents a lot of the top English footballing talent.

Rachel Anderson is a beacon of light in a male dominated field. She has changed the face of Football Agents without conforming herself. She has for the past twenty years negotiated deals for young and not so young players but more importantly changed (often through legal means) the ‘men only’ agenda in the football world. She says that people would assume she was a secretary until she started speaking.

But what do they all do for their money?

Football agents have a controversial reputation. They hit the headlines when they are creating a big money move for a player, but what about the rest of the time? Increasingly they are a surrogate parent, protecting their players from the clutches of the press, managing their finances and avoiding the lure of drink, drugs and anything else that could derail a young player’s career. Thus preserving their marketability and commerciality. So it looks a bit more 24/7 than 9 to 5. I can tell you aren’t feeling sorry for them just yet. But when things do go wrong, what then?  Well it looks like they spring into action: press releases, interviews, charity work, and use positive spin to re-build reputations. I don’t know whether agents were involved in the rehabilitation of David Beckham from 1998 public enemy to St. David in 2016, but who knows, I doubt he did it on his own.

What lessons could we learn from football agents?

  • Provide fantastic candidate care, not just when you are managing a new opportunity but outside of this. Don’t become someone’s best friend when it suits you
  • Be a trusted advisor not just an agent, this takes time but is what people really want
  • Lastly look at all your relationships as long-term investments, not just for the here and now but forever.

These are things that Grovelands prides itself on as it continues to redefine recruitment. Give me a call on 01273 651 500  or drop me a line to find out more about what we do differently, or to discuss Monty Python.

 

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