The Major Differences for Agents Representing Football/Soccer Coaches
Representing a football coach or manager is becoming increasingly common in the modern football environment. These individuals are in a position to require representation in their particularly volatile roles and some agents have formed focusing on representing coaches alone rather than players. In this blog we will assess the concept of representing football coaching staff, the most important things to be aware of and the major differences from representing players.
Licensed Coach Agents
Prior to the transition to the new FIFA Agent Regulations beginning in January of 2023, it was not required that a representative acting on behalf of a coach or manager in football must have an agent licence. The former licensing system only applied for agents representing players.
The new regulations, which will be fully enforced from 1st October 2023, have now combined the representation of football coaches into the same bracket as players and hence, agents will need to obtain their official FIFA Football Agent licence before they are able to enter into a representation contract with a coach. The representation of the coach will then also have to comply with the FIFA agent regulations regarding commission caps, multiple representation and other legal requirements.
One significant difference that this will make is that currently, many coaches are represented by family members. The requirement to now pass the agent exam in order to legally represent a coach will present a barrier to family members wishing to represent their relative. This is likely to mean more coaches will be seeking agents further afield than their immediate family.
Being the Agent of a Coach and the Differences from Representing Players
Much like football players, coaches in the modern era require professional representation. The majority of top coaches will have agents who are tasked similarly to player agents; to identify potential opportunities in the market and to make the deals materialise. Even though coaches are less likely to sign lucrative sponsorship deals, there are still financial opportunities for agents through the contracts that they sign with clubs.
An important point to note is that coaches will usually be inclined to work with relatively older agents that have greater experience and a long-established network within the industry. It is a very different service required of the agent to represent an older person rather than a younger player. Coaches will often have families and children which need to be considered and hence, an agent in a similar life circumstance may be able to relate to the coach in a way that improves their professional relationship and productivity. For an agent to successfully represent a coach, they must be aware of the major differences and priorities of the client, as with any.
Media work is a significant component when it comes to representing coaches. For coaches this is a vital area to master. Coaches are recruited based upon their reputation and often the public’s perception of them. Generally, clubs are more lenient towards coaches that come across well in public-facing situations; they may get a few more games to redeem themselves whilst coaches that are not so strong in this area may be sacked without such an opportunity. It is a key responsibility as the agent to help a coach client to develop and improve their reputation through arranging interviews and helping them with media training.
Ultimately, as with any client an agent may work with, their role is to find and secure the best opportunities. For coaches, agents need to proactively seek possible opportunities for job interviews and offers in any market where the client could succeed and is willing to go to. Agents will be proactive in finding and identifying clubs where there may soon be a managerial vacancy and then formulating how best to move forward to position their client as an attractive replacement. A strong relationship with clubs is vital for agents representing coaches, arguably more so than for representing players, as it will mean agents are able to find more opportunities for the client. This goes beyond just having a strong contact with the Sporting Director or Head of Recruitment; it is often the owners and other board members who are key decision makers in the managerial position at a club. Therefore, if agents have a good relationship with them, they enhance their chances of finding a suitable placement for their client.
Agents that represent both players and coaches view the opportunity of a coach client as potentially collaterally beneficial for the services they can offer to their playing clients. For example, if an agent represents the coach of a club which may be well-suited as an opportunity for some of their playing clients, this is a potential gateway into creating a link and deal to move the player into the club. Coaches and other staff will usually have an influence on the transfer strategy and recruitment targets of the club and hence, representing a coach will mean they will already be aware of your playing clients and their chances of success if coming into the club. However, on the other side of this is that caution must be taken to avoid a conflict of interest. The agent needs to prioritise the best interests of each client without causing a problematic overlap. Furthermore, an issue is created if an agent establishes too much control within a club, this can cause greater problems and difficulties for the wider football industry. This is something to be considered when speaking with clubs and it is important to understand their situation.
In the modern football landscape, agents also sometimes work with coaches working at youth level and may be coaching academy u16-u23 age group teams. The reason for doing this is two-fold. Firstly, the coach could be at the beginning of their own career and perhaps they might go on to coach at the highest level. Secondly, it provides a good link into discovering the next best talent coming out of the academy system.
Most recently, as well as the high profile dismissals of Brendan Rodgers, Graham Potter and Antonio Conte, the sacking of Julian Nagelsmann dominated the football news after Bayern Munich sacked the coach despite averaging 2.31 points per game and reaching the UEFA Champions League quarter-final. Phrases like ‘sacking season’ are a common tongue-in-cheek jibe towards the volatility and vulnerability of a managerial situation. For example, 12 managers have been sacked in the 2022/23 season in the English Premier League alone, over half of the clubs in the league and including two sacked by Southampton in the space of four months and two at Chelsea within six months. Watford, now in the English Championship have had 20 managers in the last 10 seasons and a reflection of the instability of a coach’s position at a club at any time. The table below shows the managerial dismissals in the 2022-23 English Premier League season, including Graham Potter’s departure from Brighton as Chelsea bought him out of his contract there:
This is a major point of difference from the employment contracts given to players. It is far more uncommon for players to just simply be sacked at the whim of a club’s board whilst coaches are often chopped and changed in an almost constant revolving door of managers in the top football leagues. Whilst some clubs buck the trend and managers can survive a decent tenure based upon results and success, the average duration of a coach is no longer than two seasons in the top European leagues. Failure to meet the objectives of the owners and the board, ‘losing’ the changing room as players can turn against the coach, a lack of connection with the fans, and consistently poor results will, more often than not, result in the ruthless sacking of the coach.
In light of this, perhaps the most important aspect for agents to be aware of is the termination clauses within a coach’s contract. The majority of employment contracts with coaches in the modern football era will contain termination clauses which will be negotiated by the agent. If these terms are clearly outlined within the contract signed at the beginning of the tenure, the coach should not suffer financially from being sacked. The termination terms will usually ensure that the coach is adequately compensated for the remaining time left on their contract when they are dismissed. This will often be awarded as a one-time large payment made to the coach by the club. For example, when Jose Mourinho was sacked by Manchester United in 2018, he received a payout of £15million as he had two years left on his contract. Antonio Conte and his backroom staff, received a share of £26million in the same year from Chelsea after he was dismissed despite winning the Premier League in his first season and then the FA Cup in the year he was sacked for finishing 5th in the table.
Agents must be aware that termination clauses can be as specific or broad as is desired and ultimately, agreed upon. For example, the club may wish to negotiate that the coach will have the termination fee reduced if they have been knocked out of all domestic cups and, if they finish in the bottom half of the league, they will not receive any compensation payout at all if they are dismissed as a result. The agent may compromise and agree that their client will be entitled to compensation regardless of their position in the league but accept a reduced fee if they do not meet certain objectives in domestic cups. Whatever is agreed upon at the time of the contract signing will most likely be enforced once the coach is sacked and the agent must ensure their client is not harshly financially penalised.
If termination clauses were omitted from the original employment contract, it should be the responsibility of the agent to rectify the situation if a coaching client is sacked. Fortunately, all hope is not lost as in the majority of countries there are employment, contract and labour laws which prevent the termination of contracts without just cause or a minimum level of financial compensation. The agents will be able to negotiate what is known as a ‘termination settlement’ with suitable legal advice and assistance which will make the coach financially stable and the agent and client can then move on to finding the next opportunity. The more amicable the departure and the brevity of the legal battle, the lesser the damage to a coach’s reputation and hence, a greater chance of finding another coaching role in the future.
The employment status and job security of a coach is almost unlike any other profession in the world. Agents that wish to represent coaches must have an in-depth understanding of the way in which a club operates and the relationships they have with managers. It can be very volatile and the agent must ensure their client is not placed in a difficult situation if the worst is to happen and they are dismissed by a club. Implementing termination clauses and reassuring clients they will be financially secure will help the agent provide the best service to their client as a coach. In return, representing a coach or multiple coaches will reward the licensed agent and open up new gateways and access points into football clubs around the world.