Being a Football/Soccer Agent at the FIFA World Cup
As everyone knows, the FIFA World Cup is currently taking place in Qatar. As the first version of the global competition to be staged in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, it is one that has been well discussed ever since Qatar was announced as the host nation of the 2022 World Cup over a decade ago at the end of 2010.
This blog refrains from being another article that highlights the much-spoken about topics that you are likely to have read and heard. Instead, this blog aims to immerse the reader into a new perspective of the most watched tournament on the planet; through the lens of football agents. We will explain the different components of the roles and responsibilities that come with representing a client at the World Cup and the uniqueness of the opportunity it presents in a variety of areas.
Supporting your Player
Firstly it is important to acknowledge the privilege of representing a client at the World Cup. As well as it being a remarkable achievement for them as a player, it similarly gives an immense sense of satisfaction to the agent. All of your hard work and the services that you have provided to the player have helped them on their journey to representing their country at the very peak of the game. If and when you are fortunate enough as an agent to have a client play in the World Cup, it becomes an extended part of your job description to offer your services to benefit their tournament experience, performance and ensure that their presence on the global stage has a long-term positive impact.
The World Cup is a completely different atmosphere, environment and setting both on and off the pitch, particularly in a country like Qatar. It can be overwhelming for players, especially if it is their first time and as the agent, you ought to assist as far as possible to relieve them of unnecessary stresses and worries that could be detrimental to their performance on the pitch. As is the case with most of your value as an agent, you want to create a situation where the client only has to focus on performing optimally on the pitch as the agent takes care of everything else.
Unfortunately at the World Cup, there are several elements that may create worries for your player that are unavoidable. Firstly, the intense pressure and scrutiny of playing for their country at a tournament watched by billions of people and with the eyes of their country following every tackle, every pass, every shot and every detail of their performance is an obvious consideration. Every player reacts differently to such a situation, some relish the pressure and thrive in competitions like this whilst others can really struggle mentally and physically and can be cripplingly affected by normal human emotions such as nerves, anxiety and stress.
Understand and Protecting their Mentality
The agent needs to understand their clients mentality and the relationship you have with your client can help you gauge how they are feeling. For a client that is mentally vulnerable and has concerns at the World Cup, the agent can intervene and call upon the professional advice of psychologists and mental coaches to ensure they get the support they need. For a player who may have worked their entire life and career to reach the moment where they are selected to represent their nation at a World Cup, it would be an incredible shame if the sense of occasion and anxiety is overwhelming and they fail to do their ability justice and are incapable of enjoying the experience. It is a rare opportunity that few individuals will ever achieve and is meant to be enjoyed and remembered as some of, if not the greatest, moments in a player’s career.
The agent also needs to make their client aware of the dangers of social media and reading press reports and articles during the tournament and in football in general. The pressure is enough for a player without reading negative comments and scrutiny from the public and the pundits. In many cases, the best advice is to avoid engaging with these things during the competition for the sake of protecting the mental health and confidence of the player. In extreme cases, the agent may even be able to use their trusted contacts in the media industry to stand up for the player and create more positive media coverage of the client and then these can be deliberately shown to the player if needed to give them encouragement. The agent lives through the highs and lows of the campaign with their client and you can feel the pain of negative press and poor performances so this makes it all the more important to defend and support the client throughout in the best way possible.
On the topic of the media, part of the unavoidable World Cup experience is extensive duties for the top players. If a client falls into this category it is another additional burden that they have to deal with but the agent is able to support them. Preparation in many areas of football is key and arguably none more so than when under the spotlight of journalists in a World Cup press conference. For all things football, the player will usually be used to answering the common questions surrounding their own and their teammates’ performances and maybe even the performances of the other countries. However, what has been particularly highlighted by the Qatar World Cup is that in the modern era of football, media duties and interview topics can go far beyond just football.
It is important to remember as the agent that the client is most likely a young adult who has grown up playing the sport they love and are now fortunate enough to do it as a career. Whilst they will of course be aware or be made aware of certain topics, they are often unlikely to have in-depth knowledge and understanding of issues beyond football that may be addressed with players in press conferences. As the agent, this should be seen as a great opportunity to show the value you can add to your client. You can do the research for them and help them feel comfortable that if they are asked about certain sensitive or complex topics, they will be able to answer them.
Usually, the player is likely to have access to a psychologist or mental coach through their club but this remains a vital source of support during the World Cup as well. On top of ensuring the player has this available to them, the agent also needs to go to great lengths themselves to be a pillar of mental support.
For example, during the Brazilian World Cup in 2014 I spent the month alongside Mesut Özil as a reliable advocate of his in the face of any challenge and pressure that came to him during the tournament. I took it upon myself to speak with him before and after every game, offering words of encouragement and positivity as well as trying to keep his mind in the right place to perform at his optimum for his country on the biggest stage.
Capitalising on Unique Opportunities for your Client
The previous section may have made it seem as though a lot of the agent’s involvement with a client throughout a World Cup is on the negative side and the hardships that come as part of the package. And certainly, the more negative aspects you alleviate from the player and the more you take on yourself, the better your service to the player. However, there is also a vast array of unique positive opportunities specific to the World Cup stage that may be presented to your player. Although the statistics for the 2022 edition are obviously not available yet but the graph below shows the true status of the tournament as a globally watched event:
As mentioned, billions of people watch the World Cup and hence, this creates an exciting and lucrative platform for opportunistic sponsors and global brands and consequently, for your client. For any player that performs on such a stage, it is inevitable that these sponsors will have an element of interest in collaborating with them. If a client is a top player they will already have endorsements in place as a result of your services to them in finding sponsorship deals and the World Cup is simply a new accentuated platform to capitalise upon the partnership and promotion.
An agent can consider this well before the competition takes place. For example, in the knowledge that a client will likely be chosen as part of their country’s World Cup squad, the agent ought to negotiate with their sponsors to include clauses in the commercial contract that stipulate bonuses and extra remuneration if the player appears on the global stage. For example, a 20% bonus for every World Cup appearance would be an appropriate reflection of the additional promotion of the products, particularly for boot deals.
Even if these clauses are not in place, there will still be additional opportunities. It is the role of the agent to proactively find unique possibilities that could only arise from a client participating in the World Cup. Clothing brands, headphones, travel attire and transport companies may all be potential collaborations that you can find for your client. These can often be more lucrative and beneficial for your client’s profile than regular deals due to the magnitude of the tournament. The extreme finances and sponsorships that World Cup’s attract is shown in the graph below:
Having said this, the performance of the client on the pitch is of utmost importance and should always be emphasised as the greatest priority. The agent’s understanding of the player is crucial here as they need to be aware of the client’s willingness to engage with commercial obligations without sacrificing the level of football they can produce on the pitch. Some may want to solely focus on football but others will be more than happy to take on off-pitch commitments to build their personal brand and raise their global profile. Ultimately, it is the player’s choice as to whether they are interested in off-pitch opportunities based upon the guidance of the agent. Bringing the opportunities and contracts to the client is the agent’s job, signing it is the decision of the player and should not be forced.
Financially rewarding projects at the World Cup are not the only method of boosting the positive publicity and profile of a client that an agent should be aware of. Revisiting the point made at the end of the first section, this global platform and intense media coverage also provides an opportunity for clients to voice opinions on what they’re most passionate about. This can be a sensitive area but if delivered in the correct manner, of which the agent is tasked with advising upon, the client can give powerful messages of support and solidarity with people suffering from issues around the world. Taking a stance on human rights, particularly on the world stage can highlight the most important concerns of your client and raise awareness of solutions. However, this can often leave clients open to criticism, particularly if their performances fall below expectations. As the agent it is once again part of the job criteria to be able to sensibly advise and support clients in such situations.
A Unique Networking Opportunity
A final point to raise when understanding the implications of being an agent at a football World Cup is the unprecedented variety of possible contacts and new relationships with professionals in an extensive list of industries that can benefit your own career.
Of course, for the player, they are given a global platform to express themselves and perform on the pitch and to impress scouts and clubs from around the world. However, for the agent it is also an extremely important opportunity for you to impress on a different stage and connect with the wider football world.
Remember, at the biggest competition in the world, there are influential and well connected people in attendance from almost any industry. It is a chance to begin relationships with club and national association officials, representatives from brands and sponsors, the media and journalists, the family members of players and their agents and with other players from every corner of the football globe.
The importance of capitalising on the opportunity cannot be stressed enough as it can help improve the services you are able to provide to your client(s) and facilitates operating in additional markets in the future which can only be a positive consequence.
To summarise, the World Cup is a magnificent tournament, fully deserving of its title as the largest sporting event on the planet. For players, it is often the peak of their career and something they have dreamed of since they first kicked a football. For the agent, as this blog has shown, it presents an enthralling opportunity to develop your own capabilities in the profession and demonstrate the extent of value you can bring to your client in various facets from media advice, mental support and commercial deals.
I am in the very fortunate position that one of my clients has been through the World Cup journey and held the famous trophy at the end. For me as the agent, this is one of my proudest moments and I would like to think I played a small part at least in his successful contributions during the victorious campaign. It is a remarkable and extraordinary experience to have a client at the World Cup and similarly to the players themselves, it is important to savour every memorable moment and of course, to work incredibly hard to best serve the interests and performance of your play on and off the pitch.