Ok then, I have dusted off my ‘hard hat’ and ‘flak jacket’ and am prepared for some of the ‘grief’ and ‘criticism’ that may well come my way with what I am about to say. However, given some of the commentary about the first of the new FIFA Football Agent Exams held last week (19th April 2023), some of the comments being made both publicly and privately are misguided, if not ludicrous.
I openly admit that whilst not THE toughest exam I have ever sat, my FIFA/FA agent exam many years ago was amongst the toughest. However, what I would say is that it doesn’t even get close to the difficulty of the exam set by World Athletics for ‘licensed’ Athlete Representatives (in effect ‘agents’), or the test I took for a role at GCHQ many years ago ……. for the curious minds reading this, I passed the former at the second attempt, but the latter I gave up and never tried again (it just wasn’t for me).
Whilst many of those who sat the exam are being quite pragmatic in their appraisal of the exam and the overall process, the ‘whinging and whining’ from others is somewhat overdramatic and unreasonable.
With this in mind I would say, if that is the way you are going to approach the football agent industry in thinking ‘stamping your feet’ and screaming ‘it’s not fair’; then maybe you should reconsider your ambition for a role in such a ‘cut throat’ and competitive world as that of the football agent ……. as the industry is far from fair (both unofficially and officially).
“They just want to cut the number of agents. They are trying their best to f**k agents in every way.”
I don’t think there are many people who would argue the fact that FIFA want to cut the number of agents in the industry, and most likely will agree with this objective. Whether this be FIFA, the national FAs, FIFPro, the clubs, the players, the coaches or even the agents themselves (past present and future).
However, the second part of the comment just about sums up what the new agent regulations are also trying to achieve, in better regulation, standards and professionalism.
Some candidates are complaining that the exam was set to catch them out, bemoaning that “It’s designed to trip us up,”.
Allow me to let you on in a little secret here (and I hope that many in the football agent industry will concur with me) ……. the football agent world is all about others trying to ‘trip you up’ (as is the case in many other industries), and probably exaggerated to do with football’s competitive and potentially lucrative nature. So, isn’t it justifiable that in some ways, the test/exam for entering that same industry may try to ‘trip you up’, even indirectly conditioning and preparing you for such an environment?
For anyone who is new to football regulations and sports governance as a whole, it is safe to say that it takes some time to get used to wording (as it does for those in the legal profession with legal wording and terminology).
In addition to that, I will openly admit that there is quite a lot of interpretation that ‘muddies the waters’ yet further on regulations, and prompts debate and dispute between not just agents and the football authorities, but also the very best lawyers and barristers involved in the football industry. As with my comment above (re: ‘tripping up’), I would again stress that this is in a way an element of conditioning for the industry and preparing candidates for what they face ahead.
“Extremely ambiguous questions”
It is also worth considering that the exam process from FIFA is worldwide, and whilst many in Europe think football is all about Europe – it isn’t. So, with this in mind, these regulations and the questions for the exam have to be adapted for everyone, not just tailored to perfectly suit the English-speaking majority sitting the exam – who arguably have an advantage in this, way over many other candidates.
In fact, I have a lot of sympathy for those who sat the exam in a language that is not considered their ‘mother tongue’ or one in which they are not conversant technically, as the exam could only be sat in English, French or Spanish.
From what I have seen, heard and read, it is largely those candidates (e.g. some from Japan, Portugal, Germany) who are not complaining about the wording – the complaints largely emanate from English speaking candidates.
“some (questions) were worded to try and catch you out”
As before a lot of the documents and information you will deal with as an agent, from contracts to regulations; are predominantly technically worded, complicated and open to interpretation. Quite often it will not be possible (e.g. budget, availability) to have a lawyer at your ‘beckon call’ to check these things all the time, so it is reasonable to expect a licensed agent to be able to understand the core wording of such documents.
It is interesting to hear that so many candidates sitting the exam are seemingly experts (or profess to be) on what should have been the topics covered in the exam, or even what questions should have been asked.
”It is unfair in that regard, in that you are being scored on things that do not really prove your credentials as an agent or otherwise.”
I am sure with those exams we have failed in the past, or come out of regretting that we hadn’t prepared differently for and revised harder ……. we would have loved to have set the questions. After all, it would no doubt mean that we all achieved 12 grade A* GCSEs, 6 grade A* A Levels, a 1st class honours degree from an Oxbridge University and a full scholarship to do a PHD at Harvard.
”questions generally concern things you do not need to know immediately.”
This I found to be an intriguing comment. So, questions are about something you don’t need to know immediately? However, they seemingly accept it is something an agent would need to know?
Or, if it is something a new agent does not need to know ‘immediately’, when would be the suggested time that they do learn it? Maybe after a client-player has been sanctioned by FIFA for a breach? Or the agent themselves is banned for a regulation they should have known about?
”questions generally concern things you do not need to know immediately.”
“a lot of the questions were based around regulations, as opposed to how the actual job is performed,” insisting it would be “more appropriate for sports lawyers than player representatives.”
As you can probably tell from this article so far, I have gone from frustrated to perplexed with some of the comments by some of the football agent exam candidates, but this one I greeted firstly with a ‘shake of the head’ and then a chuckle 😊
Rather than a question such as: how long does it take to drive from Grimsby to Rochdale at 7pm on transfer deadline day?
My first reaction on seeing this comment, not only took me back to my agent’s exam, but also my GCSEs and ‘A’ Levels, where I learned not to ‘compare notes’ and exchange thoughts about the questions with fellow candidates after an exam. Most will end up with doubts about how they did, and maybe even have regret and resentment towards others.
“Everyone had different questions, some guys said they felt they had really easy ones, others more difficult”
However, lets take a minute and reflect on this statement and how it applies to the conditions and format for the FIFA football agents exam.
I think a lot of people whether agents, football stakeholders and those in football governance (including FIFA) agree that the way in which FIFA have developed the exam with the questions that are randomly generated for each candidate, and with the exam submissions timed and controlled, are very welcome, and a progressive step.
Pre-2015 the football agents exam was arguably open to subversion and cheating which meant that more favourable conditions were entertained in some places whilst it was far tougher in others. There were many accusations that the (then) paper-based exam, amongst other things experienced: (i) candidates having advanced access to exams, (ii) being allowed notes and help in a ‘closed book’ exam, (iii) being allowed additional time.
Probably the one encouraging thing I have heard from some candidates is an attitude that they have a second opportunity to sit the FIFA Football Agent’s exam in September, and this is even though they don’t yet know their result from the first exam. To these people I applaud the resolve and fortitude they are demonstrating to ‘go again’, this is no doubt the attitude they will need in the football agent industry.
I would say that passing the Football Agents Exam at the second attempt is best, after all, that is what I did, and I hasten to add many other long-standing agents didn’t pass first time around.
In discussing the exam and the feedback heard from candidates with another long-established agent (and lawyer), it got me to thinking whether FIFA have indeed set the bar very high on this first exam to ‘weed out’ those candidates who were merely chancing their arm hoping for an easy ride.
This encourages those harder working candidates to get a better understanding of the regulations (and inadvertently a greater appreciation for what they have learnt) for the second exam in September where maybe, (just maybe), the ‘bar may be lowered’ ever so slightly for possibly fewer candidates sitting the second exam, who are better prepared?