Grigor Pasha writes: In a previous post I said that I was looking for time to think through my management of Neftochimic 1962 from the perspective of stakeholder management.

Well, since we haven’t got a game this week, other than a friendly with Nesebar, I’ve devoted some time to thinking about the business of agents.

I’ve consulted several associates and have encountered a wave of negativity:

  • ‘All they do is take money out of the game’
  • ‘They’re just middle-men: they don’t add any value’
  • ‘They’re parasites’

Reframing the way we think about agents

Well, I don’t go along with all this.

To managers who criticise agents on the grounds that they ‘take money out of the game’, I say: are they any different from you? I mean: you’re paid a salary, aren’t you? And you don’t go an spend it all at the club shop, do you?

No, you spend it on groceries, petrol, heating… So what’s the problem with agents doing the same?

To those who say they’re just intermediaries [my preferred term for ‘middle-men’], ‘they don’t add value’ I say: you don’t use retailers, then? I mean, retailers are just intermediaries. You buy all your food direct from the farms? You petrol direct from the oil company, not the filling station?

Or you grow your own vegetables, drill your own oil?

No. Everyday of your life you use intermediaries — precisely because their services add value.

A constructive approach

Think of agents as suppliers of talent. You need talent.

At Neftochimic 1962, 13 of the players are represented by an agent. 3 agents account for 9 of those.

They’re significant stakeholders.

If you alienate an agent, you might find they tend to (a) offer you few players, (b) are difficult to deal with and (c) encourage players to leave you club.

Vice versa, if you ingratiate yourself

The way to deal with agents

First, look at an agent’s list of players. Ask yourself:

  • how many of your players do they represent?
  • how many of the players you’ve shortlisted, or are scouting, do they represent?
  • in general, are their players the kind (in terms of level and cost) that you might wish to acquire?

Second, when negotiating with an agent, recognise that money you offer direct, as an agent’s fee, talks.

The aim in the first negotiation at least, it seems to me, should be to pay them a little more than they were expecting.

(Why, you might even, just when you’ve agreed terms, slip them just a teeny bit more — you know, as a ‘tip’.)

If they then report that they found the negotiation ‘constructive’, you might have made a friend.

It’s not for nothing that the term ‘bakshish’ exists in several languages around the Black Sea — certainly in Bulgarian, Romanian, Russian, and Turkish.

Makes the world go round.


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