Knowledge is power as football enters an unprecedented period

As the Global pandemic brings football to a halt, for many of us there are more important things going on.

There’s no doubting the severity of what’s happening across the globe and our hearts and minds go out to everyone affected by the virus. We’re digging in, staying indoors and together, even if apart, we’re getting through it.

But football agents – like everyone else – still need to work and still need to put bread on the table.

The entire football industry hasn’t suddenly gone on a special paid holiday sunning it up until it all blows over, no matter what some might think.

There are real concerns – across the globe – that sporting events face the genuine risk of being abandoned indefinitely.

But whilst this a big blow for the industry it will not be a fatal one. Far from it.

Football is no more immune to the economic ramifications of social distancing and the coronavirus than any other industry.

There are unique challenges here certainly, but they call for creative solutions and creative people.

Whatever happens next, the number one responsibility for football agents is to remain on top of the news and any developments.

We are mediators amid the madness and more than just level-headedness need authority and understanding.

Within the often-confusing structure of football, it is us who must remain focused on the rules, on the process and communicating this to those who matter most, the players.

This is a unique opportunity to enter football at a revolutionary time, where leagues could be restructured, deals relaxed and money, eventually, flowing to areas of the game often neglected.

Closed-door matches are a genuine possibility, domestic transfer windows could boom, the show will go on.

In the meantime, everything from international transfers to tournament win bonuses in players’ contracts remain, like everything else, suspended in a coronavirus induced limbo.

But it is those who achieve clarity amidst the inevitable deluge of information coming for us in the next few months who’ll be best placed to help achieve the perfect vision of football’s return.

Knowledge, understanding and patience are every agent’s greatest assets as we enter one of the most unprecedented periods in football’s history.

How one of our frontline NHS workers is training to become a football agent

When football agent John Viola came up with the idea of providing a pathway into a business that generated £260 million in the Premier League alone least year, Butchers, Bakers and Candlestick makers were the people he had in mind.

Not a London doctor who is currently battling on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus.

Babantunde Elliot is one of the NHS heroes helping the nation’s fight for health.

But the 32-year-old’s first love is football.

So when he spotted the chance to learn about the intricacies of becoming a football intermediary, it was to the John Viola Academy he turned.

Viola has spent the last 26 years at the cutting edge of the player market.

Along with son Johnny and business partner Phil McTaggart, he set-up a foundation course that gives students a basic understanding of his profession.

A number of graduates are now reaping the rewards that come with being a player agent.

That idea has since been developed into the World’s first Masters and MBA degree courses in football agency with the expertise and help of Cambridge University Professor, Vincent English.

And Viola hopes they will become the gold standard qualifications for agents.

“Five years ago, FIFA decided in their wisdom to abolish the regulations governing agents – and it became a free-for-all,” said Glasgow-born Viola.

“Since then the reputation of agents has taken a battering. There are still a lot of dedicated and professional people working in the industry, but I think it’s fair to say that our overall standing in the game is an all-time low.

“The good news is that FIFA is looking to re-introduce some regulation. How that will look, nobody knows.

“I looked at designing an educational course that would give people an academic and practical grounding into what the job entails.

“That has led on to the development of our degree courses, which also give students practical experience in the industry through working alongside agents and with football clubs.

“I hope, when regulation comes, our courses will be recognised as the gold standard qualifications by FIFA, clubs and players.”

Viola himself left school with only a handful of qualifications and spent time working as a building site electrician before moving to London to work in the Financial Services sector.

The contacts he made opened the door to becoming an agent – and he has worked on deals that have involved stellar names like Roberto Carlos, Luis Figo and Christian Karembeu.

He added: “You don’t have to have a raft of qualifications to take the foundation course.

“Whether you are a white van man or a doctor, like Babantunde, all you need is the motivation and passion to build a career in football.

“We will provide all the tools you need and open up networks and contacts by giving practical experience working alongside agents and with clubs.

“The degree courses may be tailored towards the role of the football intermediary, but will also open doors to other executive roles in the game.

“What do I get out of it? Well, for a start, I wanted to leave a legacy from my time in the game.

“But being part of this unique educational development has already opened up leagues, clubs and player markets that I once had no influence in.

“In a way, I have got my own Class of 2020 working in football all around the world.”

Dr Elliot is a case in point.

The 32-year-old said: “The e-learning course and training system has been brilliant.

“It took me through the path to join John and Phil step-by-step and their personal involvement in my journey has been priceless – to the point where I am now working alongside them and living my dream.”

With football in crises and hundreds of players all over the globe out of contract and unsure of their futures, Viola believes agents will play an even more vital role over the coming years.

He said: “Football will change beyond all recognition after the COVID-19 crisis is over – and this is our chance to press the reset button.

“Top players will always be in demand, but further down the leagues, there will be problems and agents will be needed to bring players and clubs together like never before.

“If a player has the choice of having an agent with a Masters degree in his profession or one without, who will he choose? Who will the club want to work with?”

Five ways the footballing shutdown impacts the world of football agents

The World of a football agent never stops – in or out of a transfer window – even as the beautiful game screeches to an untimely halt due to the near Worldwide footballing shutdown.

For most, football has become secondary as people look after their families and loved ones, but for agents the big wheel keeps turning with players needing representation now more than ever.

The situation involving the coronavirus shutdown has wide-reaching implications for everyone across the globe but here are just some examples of how it will affect the day-to-day life of an agent.


Transfer markets across Europe can open from the beginning of June with some closing the first few days of September.

It is undoubtedly the busiest time of the year as football clubs look to bolster squads, but the global pandemic threatens to alter the summer window’s landscape, no matter how it opens.

FIFA have reportedly put forward plans to move the summer window as appropriate when games begin again [Financial Times].

This is necessary as in the likes of Europe, UEFA have suspended the current league indefinitely despite reports suggesting otherwise, with playing the matches no matter what the governing body’s main aim.

Agents have got to be prepared for sudden decisions to be taken on this and be ready when FIFA puts plans in place.


Another legal minefield brought on by the footballing shutdown concerns footballers’ contracts with many set to expire by the beginning or end of June.

It’s a worrying time for those players with unsure futures as negotiations with clubs are made more difficult, whether they’re looking to stay or go.

According to the same Financial Times story quoted above, FIFA are hoping that contracts can be extended to any “new end date of the season”.

Other options being mooted are short-term monthly rolling contracts which expire when the football season eventually ends.

Agents have a role here to best represent the needs of their clients and ensure they get that security and/or are kept well informed of the latest developments.


Football relies on playing games in order to survive and a global sporting shutdown means clubs are rapidly running out of match ticket, TV and retail money.

Even the likes of Barcelona have had to introduce extraordinary short-term wage cutting measures as football’s highest earning club takes stock of the situation.

Clubs may be more hesitant to buy, some may even be forced to sell, but football agents need to ensure packages and proposals which are adaptable to the changing economic situation in football.

There remain opportunities out there and these will increase as the situation becomes clearer over the coming months but it’ll be the most creative who seize them.


In the business of buying players scouting and player identification acts as the foundation of a club’s transfer strategy.

Hours of footage and visiting live matches are sandwiched between meetings and face-to-face negotiations as clubs look to secure top talent across borders.

Enforced travelling restrictions will make clubs hesitant to send their players abroad for talks whilst club scouts cannot attend matches and properly review a player’s suitability.

Many clubs could even look at their own domestic league for transfer inspiration rather than take a punt on a player they’ve not thoroughly scouted.

More than ever agents must utilise the wealth of technology at our fingertips to promote our clients and find creative solutions to engaging with clubs.


It’s not just clubs or players who will struggle with the travel restrictions currently being imposed around the globe.

Travel is essential to the job of an agent in order to build relationships, broker deals and be at the forefront of negotiations.

Having limitations on travel will undoubtedly affect player transfers and the ability of an agent to carry out tasks with clubs across the world on a conventional basis.

Once again this is where the access to technologies become invaluable as the best agents find a way to get their players and their messages across.

Social media, video calling, and creative content are positive, constructive ways to build relationships and assist clients.