Funnily enough it’s not a day of frantic activity as created by the media (though if something comes it last minute, it can be). Instead it’s like a normal working day for a football agent, but in this case there’s more tying up of loose ends, stuff that you’ve been working on for three or four weeks, in the hope that you can get everything over the line in time. I think there are around 250 approved agents. If more than 25 of them are rushing around on deadline day, I’d be surprised.
“There’s a fair amount of paperwork but it’s usually done in advance. When you see a manager with his arm around a player, pen in hand, piece of paper in front of them, it’s probably the lunch order for the next day.”
What is stressful is when you’re working against the clock and often the biggest delays are technical rather than any dramatic decision-making on the behalf of players, managers or agents. It could be that somebody’s wi-fi connection goes down at the worst possible moment, or somebody hasn’t sent an email they thought they had. I had one deal fail to go through because the player didn’t get registered in time even though everything had been put through with plenty of time to spare. When the club called me to tell me what had happened, I thought they were joking. I even started laughing until I realised they were being deadly serious.
When deals fall through, it’s an unpleasant situation for everybody. It’s my job to tell the player that he’s not going where he thinks he is, even after making plans to move house, or when he’s told his family and friends. It’s the worst feeling in the world and thankfully it’s only happened to me once in 17 years. Still, I remember it being very difficult and all I could do was to reassure that person that the deal would happen when the window reopened in a few months.
“When deals fall through, it’s my job to tell the player that he’s not going where he thinks he is…even after making plans to move house, or when he’s told his family and friends.”
The highs are definitely when a deal has happened and everybody’s happy; everybody’s got what they wants out of a deal. A transfer is a change of direction, it’s like starting a new job. The player feels refreshed, reinvigorated, and looks forward to moving forwards and deliver what’s expected of them. It’s also a confidence boost for the player, because the clubs tend to big up their transfers so much: “He’s gonna do this for the team,” they’ll say. “He’s gonna bring so much to the way we play…” Once I’ve realised a certain club is the best place for my client, then it’s my job to make sure it happens.
There’s an idea that agents love the transfer window because it’s the chance to make a lot of money, but in reality it’s a pain. The window opens just after Christmas, so a lot of preparatory work takes place during the family holidays. Whoever decided that the transfer window should take place in January obviously didn’t have kids. And it doesn’t matter how well you prepare, because anything can happen in football that can alter how a deal goes through. For example, I know the ex-Hull manager, Mike Phelan had two or three transfers lined up, ready to go, but then he got sacked. All the work done by the clubs and the agents had been a waste.
With regards to the transfer fees quoted by the papers, some of the reported figures are spot on, some of them aren’t. It really depends on who the journalists are getting their info from – someone who is within the transfer, or someone surmising the technicalities of a deal. Also, there’s a fair amount of paperwork but it’s all done on email, and usually in advance. So when you see a manager with his arm around a player, pen in hand, piece of paper in front of them, it’s probably the lunch order for the next day.
With regards to the document itself, it’s a legal contract, and there can be 30 pages of it, so it has to be taken seriously. The one we take the most seriously are the personal terms, but there’s all sorts of stuff in there – the club will have clauses on good behaviour, bad behaviour; goal bonuses, win bonuses, clean sheet bonuses – that stuff still exists, and the incentives are different for every player, but the clubs are more into incentives that work on team success, which makes sense.
“Whoever decided that the transfer window should take place in January obviously didn’t have kids.”
So the logistics of this stuff running smoothly is key, and that’s where the people behind the scenes come into their own, like the secretaries, chief execs, and medical staff (a medical will scan the player from top to bottom, with blood tests and heart rate monitoring; it takes around four hours) Fans don’t really consider their importance when transfer deals go through, but they’re vital. There’s so much value in a Chief Exec who might have been at a massive club for 15 years and knows exactly how the system works. Everybody puts it down to the manager, but nine times out of 10, he’s at home in front of the telly, watching the deal getting revealed on Sky Sports News.