Andrew Watchman is a FIFA licensed football agent. He’s also a genuinely lovely bloke. When we asked for people to sponsor the publicity posters for April’s Northern League Day, Andrew and the ever helpful chaps at Corona Furniture Store were the first – and indeed only – to reply. Both turned up to support Ryton on April 9th, part of the hundred strong crowd which roared the team on to their first home win of the season.
When he heard about Northern Leagues United, Andrew was quick to offer a helping hand, not only paying for another poster but also sponsoring the ExectalkSports Onagawa Cup. His son Jack, an ex-junior player with Gateshead FC, volunteered to play for the Northern League Fans’ side. In the event, he’ll now be playing in two games tomorrow as he was recently signed by…Ryton and Crawcrook Albion. Here’s Andrew with more:
Did you always want to be a football agent?
Not at all, it sort of became a logical progression. One way or another I’ve been involved in junior football for the last 10 years with my 3 sons. Work commitments never allowed me the time to get involved with coaching/management. Becoming an agent allows me to stay involved in the game (my boys are outgrowing junior football) whilst using the business and contract management skills I’ve picked up over the years working as a Project Manager and then running my own business.
FIFA have been talking about reforming the agents’ system for a few years now. What effect do you think their proposed changes might have?
It’s not really clear what the reforms will be. To date they’ve set up a working group to look at a new approach of ‘intermediaries’, but as far as I can gather this was not to deregulate but rather to seek broader control of those deemed as intermediaries. Ultimately I think the English FA will still play some role in the policing/regulation of the industry so I don’t anticipate we’ll see much change in the foreseeable future.
Agents aren’t exactly the most popular people in football nowadays. Clubs and fans often accuse them of badly advising their players (Alex Ferguson’s response to the Wayne Rooney contract farrago being a prime example). Do you think the reputation is partly deserved or do people ignore the good things agents do?
Yes, it is partly deserved. As in any walk of life there are good and bad. Unfortunately it’s usually the bad who get the most column inches. There are only a few doing the ‘mega-deals’ at the top of the game but the majority (there are currently 447 licensed agents in England alone – and that excludes solicitors who are also allowed to act in an agent capacity) operate on a much more modest income…and much more discreetly. Also I’d take anything a manager says on the subject with a pinch of salt. It was only earlier this week the Peterborough chairman had a rant about greedy agents and how the game is spoiled by money. In his very next question he responded to a journalist that Joe Lewis had not been sold because nobody had offered him enough money. I think the irony was lost on him but this just further highlights the hypocrisy in football !
Your son Jack’s just signed for Ryton and Crawcrook Albion. How did that come about?
Northern League Day! I’d visited Ryton’s ground a few times through junior football but Northern League Day was the first time I’d watched a senior game there for a number of years. I left with a really good feeling about the club and the way it was being run, especially given the difficult circumstances they were operating under. But the key factor in Jack going there was that they were prepared to give youngsters a chance; if you’re good enough then you’re old enough. Jack took part in half a dozen pre-season training sessions and they were impressed enough to ask him to sign. Needless to say I’m a very proud dad and this gives me the opportunity to watch even more Northern League football.
I know you were/are a season ticket holder at Sunderland. What got you interested in the local non-league scene?
I’ve always been interested in it, but the demands of working full-time together with bringing up a young family haven’t allowed me to participate/spectate as much as I would have liked. Now my kids are older and prefer to do their own thing on weekends, which gives me that opportunity. And from a selfish point of view there’s always the chance of unearthing the next Chris Waddle or Michael Richardson!
You can see Jack in the first fifteen minutes of the Onagawa Cup game at 1pm and in the subsequent friendly between Birtley Town and Ryton and Crawcrook Albion. If any players would like free advice from a genuine fan, Andrew will be at Birtley tomorrow to cheer on his son, drink beer and officially present the Onagawa Cup.