The Courts have consistently and even forcefully made the view that an agent owes his client the highest standard of care and therefore must never put personal interests before that duty. In the recent case of Imageview Management Ltd v Jack, involving a dispute between a footballer and his agent the Courts made no substitutions to that principle.
The case began with Mike Berry, an agent employee for Imageview Management Ltd, making a claim against Kelvin Jack for breach of contract as the International Trinidad & Tobago and now Southend Goalkeeper refused to pay his final year of agreed agency fees for a previous transfer. Jack defended this and also made a counterclaim for all agency fees previously paid. He based his defence on an allegation that Berry had breached his fiduciary duty as an agent to act in Jack’s best interests.
The Courts agreed with the defence and the remedies sought by Jack and it is this that should be a cause for concern for all agents thinking about or have made in the past a secret sideliner, no matter how small or perceivably right.
Berry negotiated with Dundee United a payment to him for the sum of £3,000 on top of the 10% payment of Jacks annual income for two years. This payment was for Berry to obtain Jack a work permit but in real terms this type of work should only bring a remuneration of approximately £750.
The key test that the Courts applied was whether Berry, as an agent, was faced with a realistic possibility of a conflict of interest when negotiating and accepting the payment and therefore not whether the secret profit of £3,000 took anything away from the wage payable to Jack. The other fundamental point this case makes is that had Berry simply been honest about the side deal, rather than ducking and diving Jacks questions on the matter, all this would have been avoidable.
So what does this mean for the future of footballer & agent relationships? Well, if you are an active agent negotiating deals for your clients, no matter how fair, lucrative or harmless the side deal may seem stay honest and impartial or walk away because you run the risk of losing all profits gained in the main contract and paying back every penny earned. This case does not mean an agent cannot have a separate private arrangement, which the client is aware of and in agreement to.
It simply means you cannot take a sneaky dive in the six yard box and win the penalty because the referees in this game will do more than give you a red card!