In the first part of a series of interviews with international soccer agent, Erkut Sögüt, we sat down to learn more about his background, his work, and how he sees the world of soccer evolving in the near future. Erkut, who has his PhD in sports law from Universität Osnabrück, is the director of his own agency (“Family and Football”), through which he represents many star Premier League players, including Arsenal midfielder Mesut Özil, Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi, and others. Whilst acting as the agent of Özil, he has dealt with all matters between the player and his club, including contract negotiations, commercial deals with Adidas, Mercedes-Benz and Beats, and the founding of the Özil Charitable Foundation. Dr. Sögüt has lectured at UCFB and FBA programmes as well as at Harvard University, and is fluent in German, Turkish, Spanish, and English.
The interview was conducted by Daniel Alford ’20 (Executive Editor, Online Sports Content) and Madison Martin ’21 (Online Content Chair, Sports), from the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law. It has been edited for clarity.
Daniel Alford, Journal on Sports & Entertainment Law (JSEL): Hi Erkut, nice to meet you. Could you speak a bit about your background and how you got to where you are, especially in the sports industry and with Mesut?
Erkut Sogut (ES): Thanks, Dan! So, my story is I grew up in Hannover, Germany to Turkish parents who both had an amazing work ethic and wanted myself and siblings to achieve as much as we could. I was pushed to become a doctor or lawyer by my father, and eventually pursued a career in sports law. I’m currently based in London, and act as the agent and business partner of footballers (soccer players) such as Mesut Ozil. Besides football, I’m also a registered basketball and hockey agent too. It’s been an amazing journey thus far and feel that it is just the start!
The answer to this may actually surprise you, as I initially came into contact with Mesut through teaching! At the time, I was a lecturer (mainly in Germany and Turkey), teaching the regulations for being an agent. Lots of agents are actually the family members of players and many came to my seminars. Mesut’s father got in touch with me about assisting him and his team in Germany, and from there I became the lawyer of Mesut’s marketing company. As time progressed, I got closer with Mesut and it eventually led me to become his full-time agent! It’s amazing that it has now gone full circle! Having founded Football Agent Education a couple of years ago, I’ve been fortunate enough to go to some amazing universities across the world and teach the next generation of agents, as well as detail all of my experiences in my book!
JSEL: That’s so interesting to hear. Do you represent other athletes and how has that been?
ES: Yes – so the agency we founded is called Family & Football. Besides Mesut, we represent other English Premier League players including Mesut’s teammate, Skhodran Mustafi. In addition, we have Kieran Gibbs and Lucas Perez on our roster. Our mentality has always been simple: we’d rather have only a few high-profile clients and do everything we can to represent them as best as possible, on and off the pitch. That’s how we operate. Right now, we’re also starting to work with some really promising youth players in Europe, who we believe can reach a really top level too.
JSEL: And could you take us through your day-to-day? What is a day in the life of Erkut Sogut like?
ES: Every day is different, and that’s what makes this job so exciting. There’s no such thing as a typical day, but I’ve tried to make a routine for myself as much as possible. I wake up at about 5:00 and either start by reading contracts, sending and responding to messages, or anything else that needs to be done. This time of the morning is great, as few people are awake, and I feel I can really concentrate. As soon as I do arrive in the office, I normally have a meeting with my team to update each other on the latest, and make sure we keep on top of all the projects that we’re currently running. From there, the day may entail a number of different things. Whether it be sitting down with a club, a sponsor, other agents, visiting a client’s house, or flying abroad for meetings, anything can happen!
Even on the weekend the job doesn’t stop – in fact it’s sometimes busier! At Mesut’s box in the Emirates we have fifteen seats, and we often host important guests from abroad. Part of what I do is looking after them – meeting them in the days leading up to and after the game, as well as entertaining them during the match. Usually after the match ends I go downstairs to speak with Mesut. Every game, we have at least five seats reserved in our box for kids from local London charities, and we also of course take them after the game to meet Mesut. For me this is the most fulfilling thing I do.
JSEL: Wow, sounds very busy. What is, then, the most rewarding aspect of your job?
ES: As I mentioned before, the charity work we do with Mesut is incredibly rewarding for both of us. Not only is it rewarding, but I see it as one of the most important things I do. Aside from this, I’m fortunate to work with a great group of players, and as such have had lots of memories. In January 2018 we secured the biggest Premier League contract in history for Mesut and was obviously something really special and a moment to be proud of. Negotiating transfers and contracts always have their thrills – it’s hard work yet gives you this incredibly satisfying buzz. But at the same time, I still have this passion for teaching and education. As I said before, I deliver football agent seminars in London and guest-lectures globally, and the fact that people come from all over the world to see me speak is a truly irreplaceable feeling. Spreading knowledge, experience and advice is a true privilege for me. Likewise, when I see people have ordered our book from Australia, or Asia, or the US, it’s special.
JSEL: It is great to see such a rewarding return on your hard work. I must then ask, what keeps you up at night?
ES: What keeps me up at night? My son Emre! He’s nearly two years old, and incredibly full of energy! It’s funny because in the garden I even got artificial grass and a goal, so I’m training my son! I’m trying hard to make him a left-footed player, but he still shoots with his right.
JSEL: Perhaps the next Messi? Speaking of which, how do you see the industry in the next ten years developing?
ES: The issue with football agency lies in its registration process. The rules to become an official agent are so relaxed and the procedure is extremely simple. Of course, initially this may seem like a good thing – it means that people can be an agent tomorrow if they wanted to! However, this is the main problem. You have people that are unqualified and don’t know how the industry works suddenly being able to represent a player. A lot of the time as an agent you can be dealing with players that are in their early twenties, or even teenagers. If you have people going to these young players saying that they are capable of representing them, but in truth only became a registered agent the day before, then the problems are obvious to see. Suddenly, lots of players are poorly represented by people with no experience or who operate immorally. In very few professions is this wide-scale lack of regulation present. I’m actually part of FIFA’s football agent commission, and one of the things we’re trying to tackle is exactly this. Whether it be the re-introduction of an exam for agents, or just more rigorous rules, it’s obvious something has to be done.
JSEL: That makes sense. How about yourself and your future?
ES: Actually, I see myself in the US! Not only has it always been a dream to move to America, but given how quickly the game is growing here it makes business sense for me too! The structure and the team we have created in London is really fantastic. We are like a family. Replicating this same setup in America is something that I really want to do, and perhaps even venture into other sports such as basketball. Also, I definitely feel that I want to do more on the educational side. As I said, it’s my passion, and teaching in perhaps more of a full-time role is something that is certainly a potential priority.
JSEL: That would be truly wonderful. We see the game growing exponentially here. Do you see any room for growth in the EPL here stateside? How about MLS?
ES: Obviously, it is tricky with the time difference (especially on the West Coast) but given how the English Premier League is going from strength to strength I think that viewership of soccer will only rise as the sport in general grows in North America. There’s a huge amount of talent right now in England, and with six of the best teams in the world playing in the Premiership, it’s at its height of entertainment.
I believe that the MLS has incredible potential. US soccer is growing incredibly quickly, and events like the 2026 World Cup will only boost the league. Like all American sports, the MLS is run really well, and all the regulations serve to help and grow the clubs. In the past the US has been seen as an almost retirement league for top players, but I feel that the MLS is becoming much more than this. It’s producing amazing young talent of its own, and I am confident that it has the potential of becoming a top-tier league in the coming years