In the final piece of a three-part exclusive interview with Column 10, official FIFA agent Charles Collymore opens up about the real story of being a football agent and clears the air after a recent career that has been surrounded by controversy.
Threats, ruthlessness and selfishness are characteristics that have been associated with football agents in the past, but FIFA agent Charles Collymore has spoken out to Column 10 and given his message to the fans that doubt the principles of those in his profession.
Collymore, who was in the centre of allegations of ‘bungs’ in a BBC Panorama programme five years ago, was accused of making a ‘sham arrangement’ with an unofficial agent as he helped the then Luton Town striker to Bristol City.
In the previous two sections of a fascinating interview, he talked about the drama and dealings of transfer deadline day, the accusations that agents have the majority of the power when it comes to player transfers, agents fees and even some amazing work he’s done for underprivelaged people in Africa and closer to home.
Now, he gives his message to the fans that slate agents, whether there’s threats from players and the new breed of agents that are coming in the industry.
‘No one threatens me, I’m 25 stone’
Q: FIFA changed the rules regarding who pays the agent’s fees, taking the responsibility away from the club and leaving it with the players. Has this affected relationships with any of your players and how do you get around such issues?
Charles Collymore: Look, I am very open about that. FIFA, like our own football association, have provided, in their rules and regulations, more transparency so, if you do represent the club, you should get paid by the club for the services rendedered and, conversely, if you represent a player you should get paid by that player. I don’t think it is unreasonable to be straightforward with the club. If I help a player earn £10,000 and ask ‘Would you have a problem with me earning a thousand pounds?’, because I have added that value to his contract, then that’s not an unreasonable discussion to have. That’s no different to an estate agent doing the same thing or a lawyer adding a fee for his services, etc. I think the transparency is good and I don’t have a problem with it.
Q: Many people, players included, speak about the dirty, ruthless ways of a football agent. I want you to describe one specific situation that has occurred in your career, which gives reason to why a player can be seen as the dirty, ruthless entity.
CC: I can’t give a specfiic situation, because I am a public figure, so it is not going to be fair on the other party. What I will say is this: it is a competitive business, it’s highly competitive. Many agents are fighting to obtain an ever-decreasing market share but, when I look at this, it is not just agents either. Clubs will do whatever they can to get the best deal and also players – not all of them, but a lot of them – will talk to multiple agents if they feel their needs aren’t being met. So the whole thing ends up becoming potentially more competitive, or creating an environment for mistrust so you end up trying to ensure, as a business – if you’re a club or a player or an agent for that matter – ensuring that your corner is protected as much as possible.
My job is very clear. It is unequivocally clear. And that is to find employment, and to maximise the earning potential of my client, who will retire at 35 years of age – and for that I make no apology.
Of course we’re never going to get a Nobel Peace Prize but, speaking for myself, I don’t think I’m dirty and I don’t think I’m ruthless. I have never done a deal where the player’s remuneration has suffered at my expense. I put the player’s consideration first. I like to get to know who I am dealing with, know what their family situation is, I like to know what they want. I want to dream with them, and I have done plenty of that. So, I don’t think I could have lasted as long in the business as I have done if I hadn’t put those interests first. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the odd one or two don’t do that – and their business will reflect that.
Q: Have you been threatened by players before? If so, what was the reason behind it and how do you deal such a situation?
CC: I’m 25 stone so the answer’s no! No, I’ve never been threatened by a player before as it has never got to that stage. But, if you’ve got a situation if you are an agent, or in any business, where you have a client threatening you it is not healthy and the relationship should be terminated in any event, because it is not going to go any further forward is it? So, for me, that has never happened and I dont expect it to.
Q: Everyone I speak to talks about the new breed of agents coming through. What is your take on them and does this influx of young, hungry agents drive you to improve your business model? If so, how?
CC: We welcome them. It wasn’t that long ago that I was described as one of those new breeds of agents as well. But, like all things though, in my opinion, there is no substitute for experience. And I believe that is the case in not just sport but business – where I have been responsible for multi-million, multi-national deals for major corporations. But we, like any other company, seek to improve and evolve our business model because it is a changing business and we have to be changing with it. We have a big planning meeting in September, every year, where we look at what works, what didn’t work, any changing shifts in trends and what people are looking for. We have a look at that and, with what didn’t work we make changes and what worked we look to implement more of. We have worked in sports that didn’t work and we dropped those sports, because we didn’t feel we had the economies of scale to really achieve them. So yeah, it is great. We have got a lot of new kids coming out at the moment and they’re great because they have got the energy. They don’t have the experience.
Q: So, how did you first get involved in the business of being a football agent?
CC: I came from a business background – I’m a business studies graduate – and I came from a strong commercial background. I had a background from boxing and cricket, and I was responsible for multi-million pound deals and working in large coroprate companies beforehand, so I had an understanding of how to construct deals. I had a friend who suggested and asked be to get involved and the rest is history.
Q: Name a few of your biggest regrets during your career as a football agent.
CC: I am pretty sure you have spent plenty of time investigating me, so you would know the answer to that question more than me. I would say that there are a few but I choose not to dwell on them.
Q: If you had 5 minutes with fans who slate agents for what they do and the sums of money they can earn from deals, what would you tell them?
CC: It is really difficult to answer this, because we are never going to be popular, and the way we are repored makes us more unpopular. But all I would say to any supporters out there is this. My job is very clear. It is unequivocally clear. And that is to find employment, and to maximise the earning potential of my client, who will retire at 35 years of age – and for that I make no apology.
What are your thoughts on Charles Collymore’s interview? Are agents misjudged and do they get wrongly percieved as overpowering when it comes to pushing through player deals? Tell us what you think via twitter, @Column10, or by ‘liking’ Column 10 on facebook.
By Jack Hyom