Why football agent Clive had Israel's defence in his sights


THERE is a world of difference between serving in the Givati Brigade of the Israel Defence Forces and being a football agent. But Clive Hart has experienced both.

As the co-founder of Shooting Stars Management, the first transfer he dealt with was Israeli Jan Talesnikov's 1999 move from Betar Jerusalem to Dundee United.

"I was living in Israel at the time and had made a few contacts, which led me to act for Jan," Clive said. "I am still in touch with him and he sometimes acts as a consultant for us."

The 43-year-old went on to look after Greek defender Stathis Tavlaridis at Arsenal and arranged his transfer to French club Lille.

Raised in north London, he read sports science at the University of Liverpool before he moved to Israel.

"It was the Zionistic dream," Clive recalled. "When I was in the army, I shot at a lot of cardboard targets - luckily, they do not shoot back."

On his return to England in 2000, he joined the now-defunct Premier Management Holdings, which was the first football agency to float on the stock market.

Clive has since dealt with many transfers, including Ivan Sproule to Bristol City, Steven Fletcher to Burnley, Merouanne Zemmama to Middlesbrough, Andrew Shinnie to Birmingham City and Will Buckley to Sunderland.

"Most of what we deal with is the Football League," Clive explained. "If you meet a solicitor, you do not assume he was involved with the OJ Simpson case - there are plenty who deal solely with parking fines.

"Some of my clients earn 10,000 per week, but if they walked into a place, most people would not recognise them.

"All of them need representation and work doing for them."

Football agents have not enjoyed the best of reputations among the game's hierarchy or fans.

He added: "Generally, any job title with the word 'agent' in is not popular.

"Technically speaking, from April 1, because of that man Sepp Blatter, who is, of course, a man of great integrity, football agents will be called 'intermediaries', even though our representative body is called the Association of Football Agents, of which Mel Stein is president."

Alongside Stein as one of the first football agents is Barry Gold, who was Clive's first boss.

"Back then, Barry helped along George Armstrong's move from Arsenal to Leicester," he recalled.

"When Barry went with George to Leicester, the club would not even let Barry in the building."

Other football agents who are Jewish include brothers Phil and Jon Smith, Jonathan Barnett and Barry Silkman.

"I still have not worked out why there has never been a top-class British Jewish footballer," Clive said.

He insisted that the role of a football agent is not just to negotiate players' transfers.

"If you are dealing with a player's contract, you are dealing with hefty sums of money," he said. "You need an understanding of the rules.

"For example, an FA rule states that with a signing-on fee, it had to be spread over a three-year period, but I know of new agents going in and demanding all the money up-front.

"You have to be a people person to a degree, too, and build up good relationships with clubs, which is very important.

"There are some agents who oversell their players.

"They might have Arsene Wenger's number, so they will call him at midnight to tell him about a left-back who cannot even get in Halifax's reserves. I try to be more selective."

Clive has also introduced kosher eateries to a number of his clients.

"Steve Walsh, who is now the head of recruitment at Leicester City, is the brother of Mickey Walsh, an ex-footballer whom I worked with at Premier Management Holdings," he said.

"I took him to a kosher restaurant in north London and he asked for a latte at the end of the meal.

"I explained to him that because it was a meaty restaurant, that would not be possible, but he thought he could have a latte because he is not Jewish.

"I told him it is the same for everyone who eats in there - they do not check your particulars to see if you are Jewish!"

The same thing happened with another footballer, who now plays in the Championship.

When he was told he couldn't have a latte, he said: "What kind of f*****g restaurant does not serve milk?"

When Clive explained the reason, he asked him if he was Jewish.

"I told him I was and he replied, in matter-of-fact way, 'Oh, I always thought Jews were pigs'," Clive recalled.

"I just sat there in stunned silence. I have seen him since and he was very friendly."

Clive has also taken Ipswich Town's Cole Skuse and Luke Chambers to lunch at kosher restaurants.

And former Celtic, West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough manager Tony Mowbray was apologetic when he phoned him one morning and stated he must have disturbed him while he was eating a bacon sandwich.

Clive's friends Martin Ling, who quit as Swindon Town manager this week, and the Brentford boss Dean Smith, have also guested for his Jewish cricket team of which he is captain and wicket-keeper.

Clive grew up a Liverpool fan, but does not watch them much these days.

"If you phoned me on a Thursday and asked me who Liverpool were playing that Saturday, most weeks I would not know," he said.

Clive will talk about his career at a Chabad Lubavitch Leeds event on Friday, January 15 (7.30pm).

© 2015 Jewish Telegraph