Football agents have been in the game now for over 40 years but footballers in the League of Ireland generally either represented themselves or were represented by a family member. However, in recent times that changed.
With football becoming more of a business, players and coaches, are turning to agents to help them with their careers.
One such agency, First For Players, which was only set up last year has targeted the League of Ireland as they feel that it’s an “untapped” market.
Only last week First For Players announce they had signed up four top League Of Ireland players. Three players from Champions Dundalk, Chris Shields, Sean Gannon and Jamie McGrath while the also signed up talented Bohemians midfielder Fuad Sule.
theleagueofireland.com recently caught up with one of their associates Conor Morrissey and asked him what type of services First For Players offer their players, “It’s an agency that provides assistance to footballers. Firstly, the most important aspect of a footballer’s career is about what happens on the pitch. We support our players and provide realistic advice as to how to progress their career. We negotiate player’s contracts – from standard contracts to more complex high net contracts. We help our players off-field also by seeking commercial opportunities and helping growth of social media. We provide a “hands on” service and our players know that we are always available.”
The company was set up by an Irishwoman, ex-Sunderland Chief Executive Margaret ‘Mags’ Byrne. Morrissey said, “Yes the founder of the company and Managing Director is Mags Byrne. Mags has vast experience in the world of football and worldwide contacts. She is also a lawyer and has held many positions within football (such as the legal advisory board of the Premier League and the English FA Council).”
We asked him why she decided to go down the route of representing players. He said is was a natural progression, “Having negotiated and worked on over 1000 player transactions – from Scholarships, Loan Deals, Youth & Emergency Loans (when they were permitted), Transfer in, Sale of Players, Player’s contracts and renegotiations it made sense for Mags to use her experience and knowledge to go down this route.”
The company’s first client was DR Congo International Yannick Bolasie and they negotiated a huge transfer. “The companies first transfer was for our player Yannick Bolasie, moving him from Crystal Palace to Everton for a record fee said to be in the region of £28m so that was a great start to the company,” said Morrissey.
We asked him about the signing of the four League Of Ireland players last week, and how that came about. Conor told us, “Liam Carroll has a great reputation in Ireland as a football agent, and having worked with the players before he told them about the work of First For Players. We are delighted they have joined us.”
“We believe the Irish market is somewhat “untapped” – there is so much talent yet due to poor advice and guidance some careers do not progress as planned.”
“We want to help players in the League of Ireland; We want to bring players to the League of Ireland and we also want to make sure that the next top Irish player makes his way from the League of Ireland to the Premier League.”
“We especially think our company will appeal to those young players that have been offered Scholarships in England. Our Managing Director is the only agent in England or Ireland that has ran a football club, so her knowledge of the Scholarship process and also the assistance we provide to families sets us apart from other companies.”
Conor, who’s just 24 years old, is active in all aspects of the business. His awareness of the game and worldwide contacts has assisted with the rapid growth of the company.
He has a Bsc in Sports Coaching and Performance and also became a licensed UEFA coach.
On how he first got involved with First For Players Conor said, “Mags asked for me to join her to help grow the youth side of the business initially, and be part of the player’s journey from Scholarship to Pro contract. Having been through this experience myself it made sense to also share my knowledge. I have played at the highest youth level and I am aware of what players require to reach their potential. Their skill is only one part of it.”
“Mags and I recognised the potential for players in Ireland but also the importance of them to be guided correctly.
He also talked about the others involved in First For Players;
“Liam Carroll joined the company to help develop the company – both youth and pros in Ireland.”
“We also have Luke, who is training and thriving on learning to be a football agent. He is excellent with our younger players and our expert in social media. Debbie is the Executive Manager, she has a close relationship with player’s wives/partners or parents. Anne- Marie looks after the financial side of the business. We have a great team and we all work closely for the benefit of our players.”
“We have many other people that we work with in Europe – we have close ties with top football individuals in Holland, Greece and Spain. We have plans to continue to grow the company, however being available for our players is at the forefront of our mind as the company grows.”
Any player looking to find out more about First For Players can go to their website;