We have seen how players falls victim to unprofessional club officials in part-1 of this series. The clubs had their own way even after agreeing contractual terms and the players are somewhat left in a helpless situation afterwards. Even if the player is an Indian International or a new comer in the I-League circuit, the club bosses their way with their clout and muscles. Is there a way out of it? Is there a system in place in Indian Football to eradicate this flaws and to protect the players in a better way?
The concept of Player Agent and the Indian Perspective
Around the world, FIFA has certified player agents who are supposed to work for the benefit of players for a percentage of their salary. He is responsible for carrying out the contract negotiation, re-negotiation, endorsements etc. but his primary job is to ensure the well being of the player and to ensure that his client is placed in the best club considering his interests. England has the highest number of player agents (530) registered due to a strong league structure. Wayne Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford was earning 20% of his salary (300,000 Pounds per week), imagine that amount and then one will get an idea about the importance of the job of a player agent. It is just an example which shows the luxurious nature of the job, it isn’t mere brokerage where someone acts a 3rd person to negotiate a deal. The reason why David Bekham achieved a status arguabaly above his footballing skills was due to the right guidance and management provided by his agent(s). Italian Mino Raiola and Portugese Jorge Mendez are widely regarded as the trendsetters in this business. The latter has got four consecutive awards for the best player agent in FIFA and that shows how good he is.
On the global stage, football is the most popular and most adored game. When it comes to India, people follow the game passionately but the same attention isn’t received by the domestic league (I-League) or the cup competitions (Federation Cup, Durand Cup, IFA Shield) or even to the Indian Football team. Indians passionately follow the FIFA World Cup, UEFA Champions League and Europa League, but they are clueless when it comes to Asian Champions League or AFC Cup. The difference in standards, league structure and the quality of players and official setup aren’t there for the fan’s liking. Can anyone in India aspire to become a footballer like David Bekham did as a kid? Indian’s do not have a sports culture and very rarely one will get encouragement to follow his passion or love for the sport. There isn’t a system in place or a path which can be followed to achieve success.
The Indian Football scene is far from achieving professionalism and the Federation as well as clubs aren’t keen on achieving it. Indian clubs failed miserably in AFC Club licensing criteria last season, even though a slight improvement is expected, we are far from the Asian standards even if we forget about the benchmarks across the world. How many of the clubs has a professional system in place? How many of them are self sustainable? How many of them have a strong fan base which will fill out their stadium in every home match? How many clubs have professionally qualified coaches, administrators or sports managers looking after their affairs? It’s very difficult to find even a single club fulfilling all these basic criteria in the Indian sub continent. When the system or set-up itself is unprofessional it’s very difficult to hope for a rise in the quality or the standards of I-League!
Successful clubs all over the world have a proper academy structure and a scouting system as their base. The importance of academy has been realized by a few clubs in Indian Football while scouting reports or networks are still an unknown quantity. How many clubs are doing proper home work before signing a player? Are they checking the human and behavioural character of the player along with his skills and adaptability? When there is no system in place how is it possible!
A player agent can double up as a scout as well. He should know the game and need to prepare an in-depth report of his clients with a SWOT analysis and a presentation which will be beneficial for all parties involved. If the agent is serious about his business and knows the game inside out, it will be a cake walk for him. In India there are Four FIFA Licensed Player agents while there are so many other people working in player transactions on a deal by deal basis. Even though they are into it, the lack of clarity and a long term vision from their part is also one of the reasons why Indian Football is still languishing in the bottom half of FIFA rankings. They see this industry as a brokerage and try to get the best deal for them with short term benefits. Also, the number of educated people with greater knowledge could really make a difference in this set up as well.
Some of the I-League clubs spends 80-90% of their budget on player salaries alone. How long it will take for them to realize that this isn’t the way forward. Investing money in the long term future while managing the current crop will be hugely beneficial and it will make the system self sustainable. This happens mainly due to the lack of scouting network and the unawareness of the talent pool in the country. The current crop of youngsters might make it better than the senior counterparts if guided properly. If there is a good scouting network which has a larger database of upcoming talented players and the established stars. Their will be lot of alternatives to choose from, unrealistic demands and overspending on players can be minimized. The whole scenario will change when there is competition for places with a larger talent pool available at the disposal. The clubs over reliance on greedy players will end and that money can be wisely invested elsewhere as well. The players need good guidance from a young age and they need to keep their feet on the ground to achieve their targets. In such scenario it is imperative that Indian football develops a proper scouting network with more player agent involvement.