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How to be a Sports Agent by Mel Stein

Release date: 01st July, 2006
Publisher: High Stakes Publishing

List Price: £9.99
Our Price: £6.59
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How to be a Sports Agent
By Mel Stein
High Stakes Publishing - price: £6.59, saving 34% on rrp

A sports-writing friend tells a tale of how, many years ago, while reporting on non-league football, a work colleague suggested forming an agency to represent some of the sportsmen they dealt with on a regular basis. The idea foundered for two reasons: firstly, they couldn't decide who to approach and secondly, they had no idea of how to go about it.

To their mutual chagrin, one of the young footballers they intended approaching was, over the next ten years, transferred between clubs for more than £20 million!

At the same time as my sports writing pal was displaying an unusual level of uncertainty, Mel Stein had already embarked on a successful career as a sports agent. A qualified solicitor, he began representing sports people in 1980 with his best known clients being Chris Waddle, Paul Gascoigne and Alan Shearer.

Fortunately for budding Jerry Maguires and topically for viewers of the BBC's Panorama last Tuesday, Stein has put his thoughts regarding agents and their role in book form. As one would expect of a consummate professional, How to be a Sports Agent is a thorough piece of work.

Despite agents sitting somewhere between the Inland Revenue and traffic wardens in the popularity stakes, Stein provides several cogent reasons for their necessity. He is at pains to point out that a sportsperson's career can be interrupted - and even ended - by injury at any time, so the necessity to make as much as possible while the going is good appears logical enough.

Nevertheless, as an 'old-fashioned' agent, Stein is scathing of "unscrupulous" operators who have jumped on the coat tails of football's popularity and took huge sums of money out of the game, as well as unsettling players and clubs.

Indeed, an unfortunate by-product of Stein's book, one that he probably did not consciously set out to do, is the insight it provides into how players and agents are now holding football to ransom and how clubs and governing bodies have allowed the situation to happen. The myriad financial clauses, signing-on fees, wage structures based on appearances and the laughably labelled "loyalty bonuses" that form part of players' contracts nowadays provide further evidence to suggest that the sport has veered out of control, commercially-speaking.

Sensibly, and despite an obvious antipathy towards them, Stein doesn't ignore the "minority" sports. With an agent's instinct for the main chance, he recognises that the England Rugby Union team's World Cup win in 2003 and the Ashes victory by the cricketers in 2005 created opportunities for sportsmen (and agents) which hitherto did not exist. Likewise, he is fully aware of the value of an Olympic gold medal.

American sports too are covered in an intriguing chapter written by Mark Levinstein. Yet having taken the reader through the stupefying contract guidelines issued by the various governing bodies, before explaining how every US state has its own legislature with differing legal requirements, it's hard to concur with Levinstein's conclusion that "if you play it right it can be a career unlike any other and a rewarding one at that." Frankly, you would be better off being a lawyer.

Nevertheless, if the reader can get beyond frequent repetition, some lame puns and the solicitor's desire to fall into legalese, there is much to recommend this book to the person set on becoming an agent or the general reader interested in unearthing the detail behind the nastier headlines.

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