Agent Hero or Agent Zero

One would not be faulted for expecting a spy action movie upon reading the headline but, sadly, the script went in a different direction today. The script here today, is entering the football world to shed some light on the tussle that seems to be ensuing between South African Football Intermediaries Association (SAIFA) and the Competitions Commission. SAFIA is being accused of failing to comply with the 3% commission cap that was announced by the South African Football Association (SAFA) two years ago, and instead charging a commission of 10%. SAIFA is also accused of collusion.

In response to the allegations, SAIFA released a statement in which, among other things, they say “There has never been an agreement by SAIFA members to charge 10%. The documents submitted to the Competitions Commission reflect that members of SAIFA charge clients various amounts which vary from 0% to more than 10% per transaction… The members of SAIFA deny that they colluded to charge a 10% commission.” SAIFA even went as far as stating that even though the organisation was only two years old, agents around the world had been charging a 10% commission for decades.

The 3% commission was a recommendation from FIFA in an effort to root out corruption in the game and to curb money laundering. At the time, FIFA claimed that only 25%-30% of transfers across the globe were conducted by licensed agents. SAFA adopted the recommendations and promised to read the riot act to whoever transgressed but the question has to be asked, is 3% reasonable? Is it feasible in the current economic climate of South Africa and will agents be able to carry out their duties without having to close shop because 3% has become a barrier instead of an opportunity for income?

For many it is very difficult to feel sorry for agents, or as FIFA would have us call them, intermediaries. For a very long time agents have been accused of many things like corruption and bringing the game into disrepute. Accusations of agents interfering with Coach’s jobs at various clubs, forcing the hand so that the players they represent play more ahead of others and even going as far as influencing national selectors is nothing the South African game and the world has not seen. Recently the former Bafana Bafana coach Ephraim “Shakes” Mashaba made the same claim that agents influence coaches and dictate who should play and who shouldn’t.

I reckon we can all agree that agents are no saints but can we put the whole lot of them in the same bag and throw in the dustbin? What do we about those agents that are really just doing their jobs whose businesses would not survive with a mere 3% commission? Are we ready for the job losses that might follow? Can our economy afford that? Every football enthusiast wants to see the beautiful game as pure as it can be, there is no doubt about that, but are agents really the only bad guys? If, because of the ongoing fight, agents are driven away from the game, can we really trust club bosses to look after the interests of players and make sure they get what’s due to them?

One thing that seems to be missing in all of this is the voice of the players themselves. Has anyone, be it SAIFA, SAFA, or FIFA bothered to find out what the players’ view on this whole matter is? As very important stakeholders in the game, surely they need to be heard too?

No matter what the final outcome of this whole thing will be; football has to win in the end. For the good of the game, we must all be Agent Hero.