Friday, 8 September 2017

Agents - are they saviours or parasites?

The statement – “Are agents good or bad for the players and the game as a whole” first came up for me way back in 1980 when I had been just been given the job as coach to the Atlanta Chiefs in the North American Soccer League and the debate is still rearing its ugly conversational head on a regular basis.

Mixed opinion is widely spread across the whole of the football world!   

Now if I was a player today I think I would have a positive approach towards agents as there is no doubt on occasions they create opportunities or make more money for players. 

But if I was a Manager I have to say I would, without doubt prefer to deal with the player directly and leave the agent sitting outside the office! 

Supporters I believe are like pundits, journalists and hacks that have little time for them as most see them as leeches just taking from the game and pushing up the prices to unbelievable levels.

At the National League level where we operate nearly all players have an agent, so both Jay and I and of course Terry have had to become used to dealing with them.

Personally, I do believe that professional footballers need professional advice. However, at the same time I don’t believe that they ever need amateur opinions. Whilst I believe in some cases agents are responsible for badly advising their clients and should be held accountable for this advice, it is reasonable to say that not all agents undertake such practises, whether the advice is innocent advice that may have been well intentioned or unqualified bad advice or advice with an ulterior motive.

But as a general rule I do believe that most agents try to safeguard the best interest of their clients.

What I do disagree with and feel doesn’t help our game at all is the fact that today almost anyone can become a football agent. You just need to register with the Football Association, take a multi-selection exam, get yourself insured then out you go searching for the next Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar!  

So what percentages of agents in this country can firstly, see talent in a young player and then secondly advise him throughout his development if they have had no background in football, let alone ever played the game, not many I would suggest. 

It’s a bit like me taking a three week exam on electrical engineering and actually picking up the tools! I’d have no idea at all as to where to start.

So to conclude: My experience of agents over the past thirty seven years has been some good, but mostly bad and today I take each encounter on a very individual basis and judge them as I find them. But the jury is still out and it is I believe for most folks still a bit like the old marmite or anchovy comparison, you either like them or you don’t and I think it’s going to stay that way for a very, very long time yet.

Bill
(@TheBossBW)

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

3G fake truth

The coverage of non-league football was incredible last weekend. 

Sutton United and Lincoln City were virtually wall-to-wall on any media outlet covering football. When Lincoln beat Burnley, away from home, it was quite simply sensational. I am full of admiration and respect for what they have achieved. The supporters will be in seventh heaven for a few days or even weeks and the clubs’ coffers will be awash with gold. 

For Lincoln the adventure continues and who can say, now, when it might stop? For other National League clubs these stellar performances are an incentive to work even harder to achieve similar results next season, now that these two clubs have shown it can be done.

We have a particular connection with Sutton because of our 3G pitches. Our positive experience with 3G since 2012 encouraged Sutton to install theirs in 2015 and we had many constructive contacts along the way. 

This is the reason I was particularly delighted with their FA Cup progress, as it showcased this fantastic pitch. In three rounds of the FA Cup, three 3G records were broken. The first time a League One, a Championship and finally a Premier League club had played a senior competitive match on 3G. 

Each time the pitch played beautifully and there were no problems of any significance. Each match was marked by attractive, passing football along with robust, sliding challenges on occasions. Watching on TV it would have been easy to imagine the teams were playing on a Premier League quality natural mud and grass pitch.

Except that sadly we couldn’t. The media coverage of 3G had about as much basis in fact as a Donald Trump press statement. 

Instead of pushing the achievements of a non-league club like Sutton in an unpatronising, analytical way by explaining in detail how the 3G business model has been the saving of their club like it has been of ours, the commentators and pundits jumped on every chance to criticise the pitch. 

We were treated to comments about how Danny Wellbeck could not be risked on the pitch with a slightly injured ankle, how the pitch was very different and difficult (Arsène Wenger); how the pitch would be watered and would behave very differently to a dry one (Arsène Wenger again, who seems not to have noticed that it rains in England occasionally and that even mud-grass pitches are sometimes wet, sometimes dry); how Arsenal would have to beware "the ball suddenly deviating or stopping dead" (Martin Keown, for goodness sake ); that it was a good question (rather than a no-brainer) as to whether playing on 3G was better than playing on a traditional non-league bog (Graeme Le Saux). 

Mr Le Saux is by the way an ‘Ambassador’ for the Football Foundation, who have been busy installing 3G pitches all over the country in recent years. Please Graeme, hurry up and tell The Football Foundation just how bad 3G pitches are, because it would appear they don’t know yet.

The worst part of hearing all this nonsense spouted by so-called experts, who really should know better, is the disrespect to non-league clubs. Here was one shining example of a non-league club, Sutton, using a top quality artificial pitch to improve the football they play on it, as evidenced by an astonishing FA Cup run. 

But no, the media ignored the positives for the non-league club and concentrated on all the supposed negatives for the Premier League club. There were no plaudits for 3G pitches enabling the community to become fully involved in their non-league club by having football played on them virtually non-stop. 

There was no mention of 3G clubs’ football academies bringing out the best of our youngsters around the country. No analysis of how 3G can make postponements a thing of the past and make a club financially sustainable. It was awful, patronising, embarrassing.

But I suppose it could have been worse…the pundits and commentators could have expressed astonished disapproval about other European countries, some of whom seem to have recently won World Cups, who foolishly allow and encourage these difficult 3G pitches in their top professional Leagues; they could have attacked the irresponsible FIFA people, who allow 3G in the Champions League and World Cup qualifiers and in the Womens’ World Cup finals; or even criticised professional rugby for allowing 3G to be used in senior club level and full internationals, when it's clearly bad for your joints – I mean what do rugby people know anyway?

Yours, Oliver