Much-maligned and misunderstood: agents in football
This is not another blog on the subject of referees but rather a look at others who are often portrayed as football bad guys - the agents!
It seems appropriate in the wake of the Wayne Rooney contractual saga where some apportioned blame to those who advise one of the world's most famous footballers. So how much of an influence do agents have upon their clients, are they necessary and how prevalent are they in the Scottish game?
To begin with, I would suggest that there is a significant agent presence in our domestic leagues with a fairly large variance in number and profile of players they represent and in the advice and expertise they offer to these players.
There are of course others who it could be argued fill the role of player recruiters operating under the umbrella of licensed agents sometimes based in another country.
This is quite common with agencies operating from England, as Scottish players show a desire to move south to the comparative riches of the Championship and beyond.
BBC Scotland pundit Gordon Smith is a former agent
The influence of agents cannot be disputed and neither can the urge to be signed to one shown by players, especially younger ones.
There is almost an element of kudos to being pursued by an agent and then being represented by him. In some cases it is perhaps seen as recognition of their talent and potential that an individual would approach them to affirm that they are of interest to other clubs.
I must point out at this stage that I am not adopting the moral high ground, as I happily confess that when I was first courted by an agent I looked upon it as an acceptance of good performances and an acknowledgement that I could move upwards in the game.
Such a philosophy is of course nonsensical when compared to being admired by other players and managers but nevertheless it is a factor in why so many players commit to an agent.
In this respect, it is not just the player to blame as this recent example illustrates. Earlier this season, I was approached in a shop by a relative of a young player who, he informed me, was going to make his SPL debut that week.
Naturally he was happy to be sharing this information, but he took more delight in telling me of the number of agents who had been chasing the player in question.
Therefore it would seem that it is not only players who are affected by the "glamour" of agent representation.
Once a player has signed with an agent, how he measures the success of their relationship is another interesting point. For some, the organisation of free entry into a nightclub or a supply of football boots is seen as worthwhile; for others the good advice regarding length and terms of contracts, relocation and future investment is viewed as paramount.
Of course, those agents, and there are several, who offer the latter are hugely beneficial to players and therefore by no means a scourge on the game.
There is another perhaps unseen advantage to agents in that they seem to possess a far greater ability to prise open a door at a club than a player attempting to do the same thing.
From my experience, any trialists who are given an opportunity at your club have their trial organised by an agent, with it being very rare that the player has simply contacted the club directly and been offered the chance to impress.
As much as managers like to bemoan the presence of agents it would appear that most are more than happy to trust their judgement when recommending players, thus surely necessitating their roles in football.
In conclusion, agents are a lot like referees - there are good ones and bad ones and they are always a favoured subject of football criticism...