17 Dec Is the synergy between the press and agents still relevant?
The media have played a huge role in football for innumerable years spanning over the history of the sport but now more than ever is the obsession with the world’s favourite pastime prevalent in the press worldwide. From the televised tirades of Brian Clough decades ago we have moved into an era of 24 hour footballing news that is now in the most part concerned with the transfers of players from club to club and can often itself effect the actual outcomes of deals.
The driving force fuelling this fascination has often been the relationship between journalists and agents but in an age of press wariness, open information, self-sourced news and social media is this relationship still relevant? We spoke with experienced football Journalist Peter O’Rourke to find out.
Peter has been a sports journalist since gaining his degree in 2000 and has witnessed a career in which he has worked at PA Sports and enjoyed a fourteen year spell at Sky Sports. He has recently been freelancing for the past two years.
Firstly what is the relationship between an agent and the press like? It is mostly a case of supply and demand, give and receive. The respect and power of the media in football has led to a situation where decision makers at clubs listen to the opinions of those that fill the back pages or appear on television, even if it is only subconsciously.
This means for an agent, having a client’s name mentioned in the press gives them a higher chance of reaching the thoughts of managers, scouts, sporting directors, chairmen and the likes. Likewise journalists need information for their stories and because of the clear positives from an agent’s perspective this is often the best route for acquiring it. This system of supply and demand can lead to a level of trust which ensures the benefit of both the agent and journalist as the relationship grows.
As Peter says, “It is a two-way thing so if an agent enjoys a good relationship with a journalist he is likely to go to him or her with news rather than anyone else. The agent will also benefit in that if he wants a certain story to go out which may help him in creating some interest in one of his players he will ask the journalist’s help to maybe get it out into the public domain. Sometimes getting a story out can help or hinder a prospective deal so it is always about making the right call when to get stories out.”
The majority of agents use the press ethically, only to raise awareness of their clients by providing truthful information but there can arise an occasional misuse of contacts in the media, “It can sometimes confuse the flow of the transfer process as some may give you information that is not 100% true just to aid their own deal but it comes down to your own news judgement to decide to run with that story.” Despite this, as mentioned before, a this special relationship is built on trust and mutual benefit, so agents with common sense and a view for the future must ensure that they don’t manipulate the press in order maintain friendly collaboration.
This synergy between the two fields has been the norm in the sport for decades but now that agents are able to broadcast their intended information unfiltered through social media and with fans and those within football sourcing news themselves is the relationship at risk? Peter believes the dynamic has shifted slightly, “in all honesty I think agents are more wary of the press now due to heavy presence of social media in today’s world. I feel it was easier to approach and talk to agents you maybe didn’t know very well when I first started in journalism, but now they are careful as to who they talk to.”
However, despite this new air of tension there is still a need from both sides for the services of the other, “I have been fortunate enough to have built up a long-standing working relationship with a number of agents and as I have helped them in certain situations they have also helped me in breaking some big news stories. We all still rely on them for information as after the clubs they are the ones who know what is going on with players and clubs as they are in daily contact with these figures. For journalists it is hard to build a relationship with the players themselves as they are told by clubs to only do media work in-house for their own TV channels or websites.”
So in spite of recent developments in the way that people consume their information regarding football, the affiliation between agents and journalists still remains strong. There may be a certain level of distrust that was not seen before but the value of the mass media to an agent, with social media or not, cannot be escaped. Likewise agents remain a vital conduit between closed off clubs, media trained players and the press that can be crucial for the acquisition of otherwise unavailable information. This is all without even considering those most important to the sport, the fans. As Peter puts it, “all football fans love transfer gossip and rumours about who their club might be signing and the relationship between journalists and agents has always played a huge role in bringing this fix to supporters all over the world.”