When Soccer Is a Family Business

A year later, though, the player’s improved performances merited a wage that should have been double his renegotiated salary. A seasoned agent, Seligman said, would have included a release clause to account for such a possibility. But without one, the player had no bargaining power for the next three years.

In another example, Seligman said a player who had seen his relationship with a club break down was advised to walk out on the team by his cousin, who informed him that his contract had been canceled. It had not. As a result, he blundered into six months of purgatory: unable to return to his old club, and unable to join a new one until the next transfer window — and only if a new team first met the old club’s price for him.

“It’s little mistakes,” said Seligman, who acknowledged such horror stories remained rare at the elite level. Yet he said that he still views family involvement as a positive, provided those involved know its limits.

“I’ve stressed this for a number of years: The best intermediaries are those that ask for help, in any business,” he said. “If you’re not an expert in something, ask for help in relation to it. So, as a family member, you are an expert in the interest of the welfare of your family member, because that is paramount.”

At least one player’s relative, though, keeps his family at arm’s length. George Shelvey, the brother of Newcastle midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, became a registered intermediary four years ago, after being asked by an agency to look into talented youngsters who might require the firm’s services. Now able to oversee deals — and technically on the same Football Association list as Jonjo’s longtime agent — George Shelvey said that, for now, putting family first meant not getting involved in his brother’s career, despite working in the industry.

“I know he’s well represented, and he has been for a while,” George Shelvey said. “We have a brother relationship, we have a football relationship, but we don’t have a business relationship. That’s for other people to sort out.”