Sport Comment: Future looks uncertain in Wild West of football agents

IT WAS an astonishing Easter weekend of football, full of action and mouth-watering goals of the highest class. But after being persuaded by someone other than Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers to spill his guts to the BBC, young forward Raheem Sterling was not one of those heroes.

I am sure he will reflect on that in time to come. His TV chat about his future and how he was not a money grabber (but did not want to talk about a new deal at Anfield) was breathtakingly naive. It was not sanctioned by his club, but someone was pushing his buttons.

The man in Sterling’s corner is his agent, Aidy Ward, the adviser whose client Saido Berahino was also at odds with West Brom earlier this season.

Sterling’s unsolicited interview is said to have been carried out on the recommendation of Ward. So Ward’s not a popular chap at Anfield.

Earlier this season, former defender turned Sky pundit Jamie Carragher wrote on Twitter: “Message to Raheem Sterling agent, shut up feeding stories about his contract.”

All of this does football agents’ standing in the game no service when, in fact, I can reveal that the era of the agent is finished. Dead. They no longer exist. Because from 1 April – and no, dear reader, this is not a belated April Fool – they are called “intermediaries”, not agents.

From the end of March, world governing body Fifa, responsible for registering and administering agents worldwide, washed its hands of the middle-men and lumped the responsibility on all the separate football territories. Along the way, Fifa left a few recommendations, such as that the “Mr 10 per cents” should now have earnings capped at just three per cent on any deal.

So if there was concern about agents such as Aidy Ward before, what happens now? Unregistered middle-men can now apparently set up as an agent at the drop of a hat. This has got some established agents worked up into a right old lather.

“Surely the Premier League and the Football League cannot want to be assailed in transfer negotiations by a new breed of representatives, who will restore the world of agency to the Wild West,” said the chairman of the Association of Football Agents.

Who is this chap who suggests the cowboys are going to be “restored” in this fine industry. Why none other than Mel Stein, not a headline-maker in recent years, but the chap who was Paul Gascoigne’s “intermediary” back in the days of Gazzamania. That worked out well, didn’t it?

Stein and his AFA have put a 13-point plan to the Football Association as they fight their corner and the Fifa recommendations. One can only hope Sterling, with a fine career hopefully stretching in front of him, gets the right advice in future – whether from an agent, an intermediary or a cowboy in a Wild West saloon.

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