Is football agent Darren Dein an agent provocateur?

When I was a young fresh faced law student many years ago, I would look out from The College of Law study rooms and across the street towards a well known Magic Circle law firm, which I knew dealt exclusively with Arsenal Football Club’s legal matters, including player contracts. I would often wonder what it would be like to work on behalf of the club that I loved so much. To help in the completion of commercial contracts, player deals, perhaps even litigation. What young Gooner lawyer wouldn’t want to use his legal expertise to defend The Arsenal against those that would abuse it in a Court of Law such as in the case of Arsenal Football Club plc v Matthew Reed, not to mention the chance to mix with the great and the good at The Emirates?

Now as it turns out I have never, nor will likely ever, work for that particular law firm. In hindsight I believe that that was probably for the best. They say you should never meet your heroes and perhaps you shouldn’t work for that which you hold a particular emotional attachment to lest you end up disappointed. I mention the above as for the last couple of seasons one individual, who happens to be a qualified lawyer, has become quite a popular hate figure among Arsenal fans. He is if course, Mr Darren Dein. Solicitor, Football Agent, and of course the son to former Arsenal Vice-Chairman, Mr David Dein.

Darren Dein has been the target for Gunners fans’ hate as over the last few seasons he has overseen the transfer of several high profile players, his clients, from Arsenal FC to rival clubs, including Barcelona, Manchester City and, most recently, Manchester United. Many fans believe that he is directly responsible for our players’ heads being turned and leaving for pastures new. That he is in essence an Iago or Machiavellian character sucking the lifeblood from the club for his own personal gain. The way he has been demonised on social networking sites one would be surprised to not envisage him skipping through London Colney with a top hat, monocle, and black cape, laughing maniacally at Arsene Wenger and The Board while he twiddles with his thin moustache like a stereotypical silent movie villain and making ridiculous and unrealistic demands for his clients.

Just to play Devil’s Advocate for a minute, I must wonder if I ever found myself in the same position as Darren Dein, whether or not I could be as objective and professional as his position would and should demand. Remember, his job is to get the best deal for his client, the player, not Arsenal Football Club. Otherwise he would be working for Arsenal and not Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy or Robin van Persie (please excuse me while I dry retch for a second).

Personally speaking, and returning to my comments above about working as a solicitor for Arsenal, or any other firm that may have dealings with them, I’m not sure I could ever be objective in a similar situation. The moment Arsene Wenger or Ivan Gazidis came to me and said that this was the best deal they could do I would probably cave and advise my client (be they a player, individual or commercial entity) that it was best to just take the offer as subconsciously I would want what was best for the club. I think that it is unlikely I would be able to put my love for the club below my duty to the client which would be incredibly unprofessional of me.

I actually once returned a new case to my supervisor as our client had been involved in a road traffic collision with an employee of Arsenal outside The Emirates stadium while he was “on duty”. This would make Arsenal vicariously liable for any loss sustained should their employee be the negligent party causing the incident. I advised my superior at the time that due to a conflict of interests I would not be able to initiate legal proceedings against Arsenal Football Club plc. Perhaps that says more about me than it does about anything else. Fortunately my supervisor found the whole thing quite funny and excused me from the case. Maybe it is therefore a good thing I never got to work for that particular Magic Circle firm who I doubt would have been as generous, or that I have currently rebuffed many suggestions from friends to undertake a career change and become a Sports Agent.

An agent acts for their client and supposedly in the best interests of the client. They should not be acting without the express instructions of their client, just as a solicitor would not act without taking instructions from theirs. Players’ Agents Regulations can be found here. As a qualified solicitor, Darren Dein should be very familiar with his duties to his client. In our legal system, the solicitor/client relationship has long been recognised as a fiduciary relationship. The term ‘fiduciary’ means trust, so in a fiduciary relationship one person (the client) places his or her confidence, good faith, reliance and trust in another (the solicitor), whose aid, advice or protection is sought in some matter. The same is true of Football Agents and I will be expanding upon this in an upcoming post so stay tuned for more.

Yes, of course you will find plenty of stories from journalists who will anecdotally tell of instances where a player seemingly gives full delegation of their lives to their agent. They refuse to answer even the simplest of questions without referring to their agent to ensure that they give the “correct” answer. Not to mention constant rumours that agents push for moves for their clients in order to ensure a lump sum bonus for them as a part of the deal.

Many have suggested that Darren Dein has a vendetta against Arsenal due to the way his father was supposedly forced out of the club. I truly hope that someone in his position would not use his fiduciary relationship with his clients as a way to continue a vendetta against a football club that effectively made his father millions of pounds when he chose to sell his 14.5% shareholding to Red & White Holdings. To be driven by such a vendetta, I would suggest, is hardly the actions of a professional individual and more akin to a cad and a bounder.

So, is Darren Dein really the Devil incarnate? Well I would hesitate to say that he was. After all I could be sued for libel for writing it! Of course there is nothing wrong with having a pantomime villain that fans can focus their frustrations on but until someone can find and publish ‘My Secret Scheme to Destroy Arsenal Football Club’ by Darren Dein I will try to give him the benefit of the doubt that he is being as professional as a football agent can possibly be and only does what is best for his clients based upon their explicit instructions.

Of course that won’t stop me wincing in apprehension if and when Jack Wilshere retains Mr Dein as his new agent in the near future. For those Gunners who are currently overjoyed that Darren Dein seemingly no longer has any clients at Arsenal, try to remember that our current and future players are not restricted from retaining his services in the months and years to come. All we can truly do is hope that Mr Dein continues to be ‘professional’.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the writer and this article does not constitute legal advice.