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Being A Football (Soccer) Agent With John Viola

In this episode, we have an exclusive conversation with John Viola, a renowned football agent and the driving force behind the John Viola Academy. With over 25 years of experience, John has managed high-profile players, negotiated record-breaking transfers, and brought top talent to some of the world’s most prestigious clubs. Transitioning from a career in financial services, John became one of the first FIFA-registered agents in the UK. Today, he collaborates with Phil McTaggart to provide cutting-edge online training for aspiring football agents. Join us as John shares his incredible journey from Glasgow to global success, delves into the evolving landscape of the football agency industry, and reveals the intricate details of representing elite athletes. This is a unique opportunity to learn from a true industry leader. Tune in and gain the knowledge you need to navigate the exciting world of football agents.

Check out the full series of “Career Sessions, Career Lessons” podcasts here or visit pathwise.io/podcast/. A full written transcript of this episode is also available at https://pathwise.io/podcasts/john-viola.

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Being A Football (Soccer) Agent With John Viola

Elite Agent And Chair Of The John Viola Academy

PathWise is dedicated to helping you be the best professional you can be, providing a mix of career and leadership coaching courses, content, and community. Basic membership is free. Visit PathWise and join. In this episode, my guest is John Viola. John is an elite football agent and Chair of the John Viola Academy, which is a training ground for aspiring and current football agents. John left a financial services background 25 years ago to become one of the first FIFA-registered football agents in the UK.

In his work as an agent, he’s represented high-profile players and has negotiated global transfers along the way. Notable accomplishments include taking a Real Madrid player to England, breaking a UK club’s record transfer fee, and representing a Brazilian World Cup and Champions League winner. He and elite football agent, Phil McTaggart, provide cutting-edge online training that brings people into the football agency business through a mix of e-learning courses and mentoring. His work has been featured in a number of national news publications in the UK and abroad, and he lives in Glasgow. John, welcome. Thanks for joining me.

It’s my pleasure to be here.

I’m going to start with the first question that I think every football fan asks another one that’s a friend or foe thing. Probably, it’s a bit harder for you to answer since you’ve represented people from a variety of teams. Will you admit to having a favorite club?

That’s a difficult question. I’m from Glasgow, Scotland where they have probably the biggest rivals in football, Glasgow Shelter and Glasgow Rangers. It’s a well-known fact that I’m a Shelter supporter. I’ve done much more business over the other side of the city with Rangers. Some people meet me for the first time and think, “You must be a Ranger supporter,” but that’s not the way it is.

John’s Career Pre-Football

What were you doing in the first part of your career before you got into this and what led you to want to become a football agent?

I’d done a bit of travel in Australia after finishing as an electrician in the building industry. I was probably the worst electrician in the world. That’s an exaggeration. I wasn’t particularly good. I knew that wasn’t my vocation. When I came back from traveling in Australia, I said, “I’m going to try something different.” I got into sales and one of the hardest sales. It was life assurance sales. I loved how it operated and how I believed that was helping people with life assurance. I graduated into a bit more sophisticated role, where I started dealing with investment, taxation, and pension schemes. I moved in as a fully-fledged financial advisor. During, that period, I started dealing with high-net-worth individuals. Some of them were footballers and 33 years later, looking after all these high-net-worth individuals who happened to be footballers.

Football Agent In The Mid-90s

You started this back in the mid-1990s. What was the industry like back then? What was it like to be a football agent?

It was a completely different business altogether, and not for better or worse. I always remember when I first started, my big thing was a bit of communication, which is a massive difference now. It’s ten times easier to communicate. I remember the best way I could get a hold of somebody was with faxes. Some of the younger people wouldn’t remember what a fax is. I remember I bumped into a manager I never met before. He says, “Are you the bugger that sends me all those faxes?” He used to run out of paper because I had to send all these faxes. I pestered them. The communication and the ways of communication have changed. That’s one thing. In general, the business is great in other ways. In some ways, there are changes I don’t like.

What’s a much bigger business than it was back then in the sport and then by extension for the agents.

Much bigger business and the money involved in football is amazing. When I first started, it wasn’t anything like that. It was still good but wasn’t anything like it is nowadays.

How long did it take you as an agent before you got your first break or felt like you were established?

It took me at least 2 or 3 years before I thought, “I quite like this. I think I want to make this the rest of my life career.” Like any new business, it’s learning from some of the mistakes I made. When I think back about it at the beginning, that was meant to be because I learned from those mistakes. I have to say, “I can do this. Yes, it’s for me.” I’m quite happy about that.

Did you dive right in fully when you started or did you ease your way in away from the financial services work that you were doing?

I eased myself in because I didn’t know the business well and I decided to transition slowly. I say slowly. I think it took me about 18 months to 2 years before I realized I could leave because I had the financial services business. It wasn’t a job. I decided I’d like to move from AAB mainly because there’s a more exciting world, even though I love financial services. I was moving into this supposedly glamorous world.

Is the industry regulated in the UK? Do you have to be licensed to be an agent?

The background to that, for education purposes, is quite interesting. When I first started, believe it or not, the regulation was strong. You had to set a test with your local football association. You had to get an interview with your local football association. You had to give FIFA a 100,000 pound bond for a period of 5 years so if you’ve done anything wrong, they could take this from you. When I go back many years ago, I can’t even remember where I got 100,000 pounds from, except I know that I borrowed from my mate, I went to the bank, I sold a little car and a flat. I borrowed from my sister to this day who still says, “I made you.”

We gave that money back, but then in 2015, they deregulated everything. They changed the bond a bit earlier than that, which meant everybody and anybody could become an agent by filling in a form and giving $500 or 500 pounds, depending on what country you were in, and then the flux of people came into the business. As you can imagine, that caused a little bit of havoc. When they changed it back you have to set a test and you have to have a license. It’s very interesting.

If you think about it, there’s certainly the opportunity for abuse of the relationship. We’ll get the ethics of the business at some point in the discussion. I can understand why particularly if you’re representing the young kids coming into a sport as a professional for the first time, they’re certainly not an educated buyer in most instances of the kinds of services that they need to make that transition into becoming a professional athlete.

That’s also very prevalent in other countries and third world countries where there’s unbelievable talent, but the education isn’t there to get the right people for the right reason. They do a lot of abuse and something like that.

Misconceptions About Football Agents

This is an industry that’s probably got a decent amount of myth around it. What are some of the misconceptions that people have about the work of a football agent?

One of them is we’re all bad guys and we take all the money out of the business. One of them is the amount of times I meet people and say, “You take money from my club,” and all that, and I have to laugh. I remember I met a guy and he gave me a bat stick saying, “You took a lot of money, a commission out of our club,” and it was a quite good commission. I said, “I brought you the best striker that you had for fifteen years and you won the league.” Nobody’s ever pointed that out to me. He pointed out that the club phoned me and said, “This is the best segment I’ve had. We thank you for that.”

We are the targets in the myths that we’re all bad guys, but I’ve seen some wonderful people in his business who are doing a great job and you’re only going to hear about the bad ones. You’re not ever going to hear about the good ones, are you? The myth is that we’re all money-grabbing people when as I said, there are some wonderful people in this business.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | John Viola | Football Soccer Agent

Football Soccer Agent : There are many wonderful people in this business doing a great job, but unfortunately, you only hear about the bad ones.

 

At the end of the day, you were there to represent an athlete. Your job is to make the most of their career for them. They have to do the day-to-day work, but your job is to help create opportunities for them. You do sit on the other side of the table when you’re negotiating with the club, but it’s the way the industry is set up.

It is quite interesting when I’m going do a deal on occasion, “Here comes John Viola,” because I know I’m quite tougher. I’ve been in a long time and I get a stick from these owners or chairmans or sports directors. I quite like that because that means I’m doing my job right from that player. I’m representing the player. I want to do the best job that I can physically do because that’s what you’re business is for. I’ve got to go in there and fight their corner. That’s exactly what I do. I work for clubs on occasion. When they will ask me to go and find them a striker or a goalkeeper. I’m fighting for them at that period as well. It works both ways. As long as you do the job ethically, correctly, and fairly, then you get respect from the clubs.

You certainly see agents my experience is more in the US probably more with, I’ll say baseball and football agents, some of whom are well enough known names. Some have a reputation for being tough, but they’re being tough on behalf of a client and that’s what that client wanted.

That’s our job.

What It Takes To Be A Successful Football Agent

What does it take to be successful? What are the most important skills and attributes to be a great agent?

They ask that question regularly and I try to always try to work out exactly what it takes. All I can say is that first, you need a passion for what you’re doing. I suppose that’s in any job or any business. It’s not a 9:00 to 5:00 job. I was talking to somebody the other week when I was mentoring him and he’s like, “What time did I finish?” I burst out laughing. I said, “A vocation isn’t a job. If you’re thinking about becoming a football agent and you’re told to be at the office at 9:00 and out at 5:00,” then you forget about that. It is more of a vocation, but if you love football and you’re passionate and you love it, then it won’t feel like a job. It’s just a normal situation.”

For me, the biggest thing is that I think you need to have a great work ethic for sure because your clients are going to be fooling you at weird and wonderful times. They want to meet you in the weird and wonderful times. You’ll be in situations you never thought you were going to be in. You’ll be doing jobs that you never thought that you’d ever been doing related to being a football agent. You’re going to do a job. One of the other biggest things that you need is that you have to be trustworthy.

People have to believe and trust you because you’re not going to come and send your life away from me if you can’t trust me. If you’re looking at working with an agent, you’ve got to look at him or and say, “I can tell that guy or that woman anything.” You need to be passionate, hardworking, and ethical. For me, you need to have empathy and somebody that you can get trust with each other. There are about another two million things in there, but that’s probably the headlines.

Developing Relationships With The Players

When you first develop a relationship with a player, how does the process work? How often are you courting them? Do they get referred to you through somebody else that they know?

When I first take on a client, it’s like anything else. At first, you may be spending a bit more time to get to know what makes them tick. Every client is different. Some players maybe want to speak to you 3, 4, or 5 times a year. Some of them might call you every couple of days. Some need a cuddle. Some only want to see even if you’re doing a deal. Everybody’s different. In the beginning, I like to spend time with them to try and find out what they’re all about, what makes them tick, how I can help them, and how I can take them through their journey in the best way that I can. That’s normally at the beginning. It is a coach at the beginning and then you get to know each other and you get to know each other’s space and the way it operates

Is the relationship all set up that you’re earning a percentage of the contracts that you negotiate on their behalf?

Here’s a big myth. Everybody thinks when they see, “He went for $100 million,” that we get 10% and get $10 million. There are ways where you can get paid by clubs for working for a club, but if you’re working for a player, it’s nothing to do with transparency. It has to do with the percentage of the player’s salary. That’s what you earn. It’s in our interest to get the player to a higher salary because you’re going to earn more money.

Helping Players Determine Their Clubs

The transfer piece is completely separate. How do you help a player determine whether a club is a good fit for them in terms of how they’d fit into the roster and the vibe of the club? There’s what the club is offering to pay, but what are the other factors and how do you help a player assess them?

If I were taking a player to any club, I do my research, I find out what the training is like at the club, what the coaches are like, what the staff are like, what the atmosphere is like at the club, what is the position he’s coming in or if he fit into that position. There are a number of things you’ve got to do as a detective work before you would take a player. Some agents may be inexperienced. They say, “There’s the money, go. “

With myself and especially if I’m sitting with somebody where I’ve got choices, there’s another point then I would be saying, “Why would you want to go to that particular club? It might be a different country or a different culture.” You’re looking at who the coach is. Is this coach going places? Are you going to be going with them? Is this like a real good atmosphere family club? On most occasions, you do enough detective work to say, “This looks is all where you should fit in.”

Do they listen to you typically or do they all have their strong opinions?

No. If you’ve got a good enough relationship with your players, then they’ll listen to you, build up and respect each other. I make it abundantly clear that both get a job to do and we’ve good respect for both jobs. I say to them, “You do it on the pitch and I’ll do it off the pitch. I’ll tell you what to do to find the right contract, the right club, and you can choose it and never choose the club.” If they don’t want to go, I never push them. I only want you to do the maximum they can do in terms of being as fit. Do the right thing with nutrition, with respect at the club, and work as hard as they can. If they’re doing all that. I’m doing that. My partnership with this side is finding them the right clubs for the right reasons. They listen, but sometimes they don’t.

If you've got a good enough relationship with your player, they listen to you. Share on X

Do you have a team of people though that you work with on things like sports psychology, nutrition, and other things that if they do want that, you’ve got people you can draw on?

Of course. Here’s a difference. When I first started, that was all of them. When I first started, I was every one of them. I was a psychologist, nutritionist, physio, psychiatrist, and whatever. I took that at the beginning. Nowadays when these guys have got everything at hand and we’ve got access to every single one of them, if they need a nutritionist, we’ll put them on. If they need a psychologist, they need somebody to take them in a room and give them the biggest positivity speech, we’ll do that for them as well. They’re all at hand now. That’s the difference from when I first started. That wasn’t there when I first came into this business.

That’s happened in pretty much every sport. It’s crazy. If you think about like in the old days of sports where these guys would go out, get themselves completely hammered the night before a match and they’d come and play. No self-respecting professional athlete would do that anymore, yet that was the norm many years ago.

I was talking to an older player who said that they used to go for a pre-match meal before they went to the match and never did. It’s all set out perfectly. The portions are perfect. They can only eat us. Before that, we’d go and eat pies and chips at the pre-match and nobody thought anything different. A couple of nights before they’d maybe been out and had six pins or whatever, that is another massive headswing because a lot of fitness is about how fit you are more than the skills. That’s something I’ve missed back many years ago.

A lot of today is about fitness - how fit you are - more than the skills. Share on X

You see players having longer careers now because they’re taking better care of their bodies. You talked about transfers and passing a minute ago. What is your role when a transfer is being considered for a player?

Believe it or not, sometimes we help engineer the role to start it from the beginning. I might want you to see, “You don’t have a club. I’ve got to go and try and engineer that to other clubs.” I go to clubs and say, “I’ve got JR here. He is a young kid. He’s come out of Boston. He’s 21 years of age and a great striker. I think you should be looking at him and try and engineer that.” That’s what a good agent should be able to do. Once you’ve engineered, then you’re into the process of doing a contract. The actual stan of a deal is a talent in itself.

Building Relationships With The Clubs

For the record, Mr. Jalex, my childhood soccer football coach would never have said I was a good striker. I was the kid he put in the game because he had to. That skill was not there for me. You talked also about the clubs and doing direct work for the clubs. How much is building relationships with the clubs part of what you’re doing as an agent?

We have two things we teach people. 1) When you come into this business, you need the product, which is a player and you need somewhere to take them. You’ve got to have access to the clubs these two obviously marry but to build up relationships with as many clubs as you can so you can never have enough contacts in this business. Nobody can tell you they’ve got access to every club because there are thousands of clubs worldwide. When somebody is asking me, you understand in this business and they’re teaching them, what should I be doing? Speak to as many clubs as you can and grow your network within clubs in as many places as you can because that will be your business for the future.

Negotiating Sponsorships and Endorsements

Do you get involved in negotiating sponsorship endorsement deals for your players too?

Of course. That’s another subject on its own. That’s a specialist subject because you might be good at recruiting a player and maybe taking them to a club, then all of a sudden it gets to a certain level and you’re faced with, “What did I do here? How did I take them to these clubs?” Some people outsource it to other people, but fortunately, I’ve been involved with dealing with a lot of the brand names over the years. Some other agents come to me and say, “You’ve got the connections at these brand places. Can you help me with it?” Just because they’ve never done it, they don’t have the experience, or they don’t know the financial implications of what they should be looking for a place.

If you think about it, it’s a completely different assessment of value. You can have phenomenal players who only have mediocre endorsement value for one reason or another. You can have players who are passable middle-of-the-road journeyman professional athletes, but they’ve got this charisma that makes them a great endorsement value and all things in between. It’s one player, but you have almost two different businesses.

That’s a different business for me because if you don’t, you can lose yourself. If you don’t get it right for your player what that endorsement should be, you could lose the playbook because you haven’t got it. That’s some new agents coming to me to help them with their endorsements because they don’t know the financial implications, what they should be asking for, and for what reason terms of the contract. I can go on and on.

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | John Viola | Football Soccer Agent

Football Soccer Agent: If you don’t get the endorsements right for your player, what that endorsement should be, you could lose them.

 

There’s a female basketball player who just graduated, Caitlin Clark. She was a phenomenal scorer, finished college, and got drafted into the WNBA. I think her WNBA contract is $100,000. She’s got a $25 million deal from Nike. In the scheme of things, the value is all in the endorsements. If you can’t get the right endorsement deal, your ability to now negotiate that $100,000 contract with the WNBA is almost irrelevant in this scheme of things.

In the US, the endorsement business is different from football here in the UK and Europe or worldwide. There is a bigger thing about the endorsements over there than what there is here. I’m not saying it’s completely different, but there’s bigger money in the US that is in endorsements.

It’s a deeper market, I guess is the way I would describe it. Somebody who’s a generational talent like Beckham from a generation ago is going to have those endorsement deals, but the market goes much deeper in the US for sure.

I believe you.

We’ve touched on ethics a little bit, but I’m curious to get, your view has to come into play here. What are the things that clearly cross the line and what are some of the gray areas that you have to navigate?

One of the big things is that people are very strong about minus you’ve got to be very careful about trying to take on younger players at age and at certain ages in certain countries where I’ve got it right and the regulations, that connection can be made within like 15, 16 or 17, depending what countries that has. The most important thing for me is because they’ve got that right, in the past, people were contacting maybe players at 13 and 14 to try and take them on board for the future. That’s the new regulations. We can’t go anywhere near that.

Gray areas for me are bits a bit like if a player comes to end his contract and other people try to contact him, if a reporter contacts him, is that against the fee for rules? There’s a gray area in there that nobody’s ever navigated to see. By tapping players, it never comes out, but there are probably a lot of gray areas, and would be here about one in the morning if we were talking about them in this industry. One of the things that definite is trying to approach minors, which is speed for a better strong, but you could lose your licenses by doing that. Have you done it wrong? Depending on what country and age.

I can only imagine how big a problem that is. Kids who show promise at age 12, 13 or 14. People take a bet on them and cozy up to them when they’re young and promise them all sorts of things when impressionable.

Think about this for a minute, someone aged 13 or 12, and a scout looks and says, “He’s the next David Beckham.” Can you imagine the number of people who want to be associated with that player, the parents, the people around him, because they see that as them being worth, that’s going to be their meal ticket for the rest of their life? That’s the bit that I don’t like about the business. There are a lot of people who are unethical in the way they approach these people some things, whereas I’ve never approached anybody in any circumstance like that at all. One of the parts is there is a little bit of negativity.

Dealing With The Media

Dealing with the media is a whole other part of the job. How does that play out for you as an agent, the role that you play in dealing with the media, either through the athlete and coaching them, or directly when you’re the spokesperson for the athlete?

That depends on the player. Some players are good at being able to speak to the media and some would meet each other. In general, especially in the younger ones, they said, “Keep away until you feel comfortable that you can and then navigate the media,” because like anything, there are good reporters and there are reporters there that will get a story to undermine the player or undermine you. You’ve got to be careful how you approach the media.

Most of them are okay and it’s the same as the other part of the business. Build up relationships with them. They’ve got a job to do. If you do a job right by them and help them with access to your player for the right reasons, then the negativity doesn’t come in yet. When I’m teaching new agents and they ask that question, a player or an agent comes to me and says, “How should I deal with the media?” I said, “Just go and deal with them as a person like in any other business,” because some people see them with fear because they can cause problems, but I see them as a positive thing they can do for my clients.

For me, I think that you’re going to be able to build relationships with enough people in media that I’ve been dealing with for many years was still calling each other, still going for coffee, and still chatting to each other about what’s happening currently or what happened years ago. That’s been with trusting each other and doing the best for each other’s careers.

The ability to have conversations on background or off the record and have a reporter on or that matters a lot in terms of the relationship that you can build with them. I think that’s true in any industry.

Except when you say it’s off the record and then you see what you said on the back page of the papers the next day. That’s when you know your relationship is finished. That’s happened to me. It goes both ways. You’ve both got a trust each other and work with each other because if you get a good reporter throughout your career and the same thing, they’ve got good players that they can, agents they can with their players, then it’s fruitful for both of them.

You and your player have to trust each other and work with each other. A good rapport throughout your career fosters a foundation for future success, whether they remain a player or pursue other paths in the industry. Share on X

 

John Viola Academy

Tell us a little bit about your academy. We’ve talked a bit about the life you’ve had as an agent so far but talk about the academy that you set up to help bring others into the profession.

Somebody said to me many years ago that I would be teaching agents and I said, “They were off my rocker.” I didn’t have enough time. Somebody asked me to mentor somebody who phoned me and said, “You mentor my friend.” I thought, “I do not have enough time to mentor myself, never mind mentoring anybody else.” I started mentoring again, which was interesting. He was a mortgage broker and he was desperate to get out of the job. He was a friend of a friend who asked me to mentor him and I didn’t want to be honest with you. He was a friend. I met the guy.

His enthusiasm was unbelievable. I thought, “I was getting this vibe from him. I’ll help him a little bit here and there,” then he started working hard doing his job during the day and at nighttime going to games and going to speak to parents, looking to try and get into the industry and driving 200 miles to watch. I came, I thought, “This is incredible.” He signed up a small player. He phoned me and he thought he’d won the lottery.

That’s like when you make your first sale. Huge moment.

He phoned me again about a couple of months later and said, “I think I’m going to quit.” I said, “What do you mean? Why? I can’t see this coming to you.” He says, “I’m not making any money. My wife’s calling me. I’m driving these places. I’m spending my expenses.” I knew this guy could do it. I’m like, “You’ve got to stick with this.” That was the story of what happened to him. His brain was to take a player to Manchester United. He has done well for himself. Every time I meet him, he gives me a big hug to say, “That night I was quitting. Thank god I didn’t quit.”

During that period, I started getting good vibes about, “I wish he is great passing on all this information I’ve had in my brain all this time.” I started to want to do it more then that’s when we sat down and I said, we as myself, my son Johnny, and my nephew Phil, we are all partners in this business. We’re a family business. We said, “Why don’t we write a program about how to become a football agent because many people and asking us?” That’s where the JV Academy started and now it’s flourished in thousands of students all over the world. It’s great fun. It’s producing new agents all over the world.

As you said, I think before we started recording this is about creating a legacy, bringing people into the profession, and teaching them the ropes. You have a multiplier effect on your own individual time when you help other people be successful. It started with the gentleman that you were talking about, which is fantastic.

That certainly is about legacy. I want to be in a situation but now out of this business that does hundreds and hundreds of agents all around the world and say, “Who taught you?” You’ll say, “The John Viola Academy.” I didn’t think that years ago. That’s where I’m at now. I’m getting great responses and reviews. People phoning me. The other part is we’re also doing business with these guys as well. It’s not like we teach them and say bye-bye. We are sharing business so there’s a great business model there as well.

Is everybody that you work with coming into the profession or do you work with people who are already agents where there’s an element of teaching them how to sharpen their craft?

There’s a bit of both, but it’s more of a new people coming in. It’s not about somebody saying, “I’ve looked from the outside of that and I’d like to try it and I’d like to get involved in it.” That’s the type of people that were getting. People who have the passion to think, “I’d like to be in football. I’d like to be an agent,” but some unusual people came and worked with us and took them through our program to become successful.

I understand that you were involved in creating the first master’s program to focus on the profession.

That’s true. Amazingly, there was a professor and a great guy who had done our course. I said, “You do another course.” At that time, a basic online course, on how to become a football agent. We met and he was a specialist in creating courses. He said, “I think you should make this into a Master’s Degree.” To be honest with you, I had a bit of a laugh, and then a couple of years later, here we were he had set up a Master’s Degree for football intermediary. It was at the time before it changed back to agency. We had many students who came through that program.

A Football Agent’s Typical Day

That’s amazing. That’s a huge undertaking to help establish something like that. That’s great. What’s a typical day like for you? Is there such a thing as a typical day?

Somebody asked me that before that. I said, “The one thing I’ve always got is my credit card and passport in my pocket. They’re always close by no matter where I am. That’s my backstop.” It’s not like we know I’ve got to be here at this time and do that and do that. Sometimes halfway through the day, I say, “I didn’t think I would be here today. I didn’t think I’d be making this call today.” A typical day for me is talking to my players and meeting my players maybe after training, talking to football clubs. I do a lot of traveling to go to meet clubs all around the world. Traveling and dealing with the team. This all sounds exotic, but it’s not exotic when you’re on a twelve-hour flight and you get off the other end. With the jet lag and having to run into a meeting, these things, you go, “You’re down in China doing a deal.”

This is why travel gets old fast.

It certainly has with me. At first, you go, “Here I am in China, Serbia, or whatever,” but then it’s the same old hotel room, you could be anywhere and then you’re on your own. I’m not complaining about that. I love the business. I love new a client in China, but a lot of the time, it’s not as glamorous as what people think. The beauty of the business is no one day is the same.

Besides you and your son and your nephew, do you have a big group that helps you with the business?

We have several other people who are involved. We have other agents that are working. It’s two separate businesses. One is the football agents business where we’re going out doing transfers, then we have the education part. Between the two of them, we have a number of people working on both operations because it takes quite a lot to do to keep them in business.

How much representation work are you doing at this point?

It’s still the representation more than the education. Education is something where I come when it’s needed. For instance, we’re doing a big seminar in Manchester and now we’re at the front of that talking about what it takes to pass the fee for an agent’s license test. We speak that with our lawyer, a fee lawyer, and a fee for sports. Our sports lawyer, Phil, my partner, my nephew, and my group of guests. There is a certain amount of the day I put towards allocate towards education, but more of it’s towards representation.

What’s ahead for you? What’s ahead for your academy?

We are currently expanding in the Middle East. That’s something right up to date. The academy for me is something I want to take worldwide. We are based here in the UK. I would like to crack America for what I’m doing because I believe there’s a need for it everywhere. I was saying to my mates, “Are you sure this can continue this education? Enough people who want to become an agent. I’ll tell you what, why don’t you walk into a public or anywhere, whether it be in Boston or London or Glasgow? Let the DJ stop the music for a minute and say, ‘Anybody here would like to leave their job, get great satisfaction in what they’re doing, maybe earn 2 or 3 times, travel the world, and be in an industry that they love.’”

“Leave your name behind the bar and they will be running up at the bar, but 75% of them will be running up at the bar.” There’s always a need for people who want to be in this business. We want to educate and help those people, especially the ones who think we can’t get into this business because it used to be a closed shop. We’ve opened the doors and the closed shop is no longer there.

It probably is one of those industries that does feel closed to people and they don’t know how to get into it. It’s good that you’ve created a mechanism for that and there’s a lot of demand and the sport’s not going anywhere anytime soon. It keeps getting seemingly bigger and bigger. I don’t expect you’re going to run out of things to do anytime soon.

I don’t have enough hours in the day, which is another good thing. Certainly, I won’t be twiddling my thumbs in the evening. That’s for sure.

You have to manage the balance of it all, but the fact that there’s demand out there, it’s a good problem to have.

Many people would like to have that problem.

Any last advice you want to give our audience before we wrap up?

One of the biggest things I find about people when they’re talking about trying to get into this business is to know the things that we hear are, “You need to be a lawyer. It’s very difficult to get in. It has been a bit of a closed shock. Do you need these attributes, you need this or you need that?” We get all these things when we are speaking to people. I like to give you a ten-second background of myself. I come from the east end of Glasgow and I started life on the construction side as an electrician. I used to sell newspapers when I was a kid and to this level, and I want to see people like you. If you think you want to get in here, it can be done. That’s something that I want to leave as a legacy. It can be done and you can do it.

How can they get in touch with you?

They can go to our website and that’s JVAcademy.net.

Thank you for doing this with me.

It was a pleasure.

I appreciate your time and got to delve into a world that I had no firsthand knowledge of. I always appreciate those opportunities to learn something new. Thank you.

I want to thank John for joining me to discuss the life of a football agent and the academy he has set up to train aspiring agents. If you’d like to work on your career, you can visit PathWise.io and become a member. Basic membership is free. You can sign up on the website for the PathWise newsletter and follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok. Thanks. Have a great day.

 

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About John Viola

Career Sessions, Career Lessons | John Viola | Football Soccer AgentJohn Viola is an elite football agent and Chair of the John Viola Academy, which is a training ground for aspiring and current football agents.

John left a financial services background over 25 years ago to become one of the first FIFA registered football agents in the UK. In his work as an agent, he has represented high profile clients and negotiated global transfers throughout his career. Some notabIe accomplishments include taking a Real Madrid player to England, breaking a UK club’s record transfer fee, and representing a Brazilian World Cup and Champions League winner.

Today, he and fellow elite football agent Phil McTaggart provide cutting edge online training that brings people into the football agency business, through a mix of e-learning courses, mentoring systems, and university degrees for aspiring agents. His work has been featured in national news publications in the UK and abroad, such as The Times, The Daily Mirror, The Herald, Evening Times, and Gulf News, among others.

 

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