Thursday, February 18, 2010


Inside Agents

A story on SBS's World Game program this Sunday which deserved a second look was the feature on the PFA's new Player Management Agency.

The story was quite partisan, of course (Craig Foster's PFA links are hardly a secret), but at least the other side, in the shape of the well-known agent Leo Karis, was given a hearing.

The question of possible conflicts of interest was brushed over fairly quickly, but it remains a concern. Would the PFA have a vested interest in keeping players in the A-League? There are certainly reasons to think so.

Having said that, there is no question than some players are jumping ship to Europe too early. Very few of the moves from the A-League in the last few years have been successful, and it's a sobering thought that hardly any Australian players under 26 are holding down first-team places at first division Euro clubs.

The instant-soup star status of youngsters in the A-League is partly responsible for the early leap to Europe, in my view. The likes of Mark Viduka, Brett Emerton and Scott Chipperfield proved their quality and resilience over several years in the national league before heading to the northern hemisphere, and found their feet with little trouble. By contrast, plenty of A-League hopefuls tagged as worldbeaters by a breathless media have foundered at the first hurdle.

Pim Verbeek's incessant belittling of the A-League has also played a role, but probably a minor one. If anything, the main result of his constant hinting has been to drive slightly older players into the arms of the Asian leagues - a move sideways rather than forwards, in my opinion.

I still feel that the FFA, as well as the PFA, has a role to play here. Some time ago I suggested engaging an advisor, not an agent as such, to offer impartial guidance to young players who might otherwise be dazzled by the blandishments of agents. Conflicts of interest would be possible here as well, but we wouldn't be talking Eddie Thomson-style shenanigans, merely disinterested advice.

At least the next time that a Nikita Rukavytsya or Nathan Burns goes out on loan to Last Chance FC after a period acquainting themselves with a European bench, we will know that one organisation is aware of the problem.

I wonder about whether players leave to early ... recently I have been thinking that extra seasoning time does not fix these guys careers.

Guys like Sarkies, Patafta (a returnee), Musialak and Mark Bridge - they have stayed around longer than expected, but don`t really look like they have good Euro careers ahead of them. The extra seasoning hasn`t changed them imho.

Perhaps you have got it, or you don`t. And a lot of our younger players don`t. A couple of guys might pull a Wilkshire and work there way to good careers, but the next Harry/Dukes isn`t out there.

Unfortunately when you have money, you attract these types. It's just human nature.
I think there is some conflict in Agents owning substantial stakes in A-League clubs then signing the team's up and coming young players.
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