RGM Sport: The Original Super Agent – RIP Eric Hall

Imagine Jorge Mendes saying a “footballers are old enough for an agent once they can talk”, or Mino Raiola playing the role of Marc Bolan’s backing frog. It wouldn’t happen, would it? Well it already has. The life of Eric Hall, football’s first ‘Super Agent’, took in Queen, Neil Ruddock and most things in between. This week he passed away at the age of 73.

Working at EMI Records in the 70’s, a young Hall brushed shoulders and actively promoted T-Rex, Steve Harley and even pushed records by Frank Sinatra. One of the many anecdotes from the Essex-boy was that ‘Killer Queen’ was written about him by then-friend Freddie Mercury.

Hall was no hardcore football fan but meeting Tottenham legend, Steve Perryman, in a nightclub would set the ball rolling for this astute agent to seize his opportunity in the explosion of English football.

From his first step into the sports world, Hall quickly started to represent players like Paul Walsh plus members of Wimbledon’s infamous and aptly named ‘crazy gang’, such as Dennis Wise and John Fashanu. What’s haggling over a sports contract when you’ve arranged for the Sex Pistols to sit with Bill Grundy and outrage a nation?

From the tide of post-Thatcher joy in the early 90’s came the crashing wave of Premier League football, revolutionising TV revenue for English clubs thus rocketing the size of the pie available for players and representatives to stake a claim for. The best players had always been granted celebrity status, but more exposure on the English game suddenly presented a space for the culture of gossip, WAGs and, of course, agents. It wasn’t an opportunity that Eric Hall, with his PR experience, was going to miss.

A back-page staple in vivid and garish suits with Cuban cigar in hand, Hall’s eye for a deal knew no bounds and claimed that he was the first agent to negotiate goal bonuses into player contracts. Famously, when securing Dave Beasant’s move to Newcastle, Hall pressed hard for a £9,000 goal bonus which the board of the Magpie’s gladly agreed with knowing they were signing a Goalkeeper.

Much negative light has been cast on the influence of agents on football and the astronomical fees paid for their influence in signings, of which Hall is a founding father of that particular game. But once an industry reaches the stature of football today, it is inevitable for those who play a part in it to command what they deem to be a fair share – what is perceived to be ‘fair’ is another question entirely.

Certainly though, Hall’s cigar-smoking, suit wearing prominence is nothing compared to the net worth of today’s agents and representatives. Isn’t that true of most touchstones of popular culture from the 90’s though? That brashness of celebrity character plastered across the tabloids, loved or loathed, has been replaced by a robotic and faceless charge for wealth.

Their won’t be another Eric Hall in football, and the last word is his… “People say to me, ‘the money bubble in this sport will burst’. I say no, the bubble ‘aint even blown yet”.