Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Agents in Football

The government announced the 'Football Governance' Inquiry in December 2010.  Unfortunately, I missed the boat with regard to submitting written evidence.  I did write to one of the committee members after the inquiry started but did not receive a reply.
I have kept the document I sent and part of it refers to the role of agents (player representatives as some like to be called) in football and thought it deserved a blog.

How much has been spent on agents?
Premier League Clubs Spent £67.1 million in 2009/10 and £70.7 million in 2008/09
Football League Clubs Spent £12.7 million in 2009/10 and £8.8 million in 2008/09

Chelsea paid the most in 2009/10 (£9.3 million) and Manchester City in 2008/09 (£12.9 million)
If you take the recent transfer of Sergio Aguero from Atletico Madrid to Manchester City for £38 million and a modest assumption that a 5% fee was paid this equates to £1.9 million.

Evidence Provided by Patrick Collins (Mail on Sunday) to the Football Governance Inquiry
'When Wayne Bridge moved from Chelsea to Manchester City, the agent, Pini Zahavi, was paid £900,000.  Now, Bridge wanted to go to Manchester City, Chelsea wanted to sell him and City wanted to buy him.  Both clubs had chief executives who could have picked up a telephone and done the deal in about five minutes, I would guess, yet Zahavi took £900,000 from this deal and nobody thought that was appalling.  Years ago, in 2004, Manchester United paid an agent named Roger Linse £1.3 million for renegotiating the contract of Ruud van Nistelrooy--not negotiating a contract but renegotiating it, and he got £1.3 million for it.'

Now I am not doubting that there is a little bit more to it than two chief executives 'picking up a telephone' to negotiate a deal but I am sure that there is a different way of regulation, transparency, and who is actually involved in these transactions and what they actually 'offer' to the game at all levels.

What do footballers do when they leave the game?  Some stay in the game through coaching, managing, tv work and indeed many have become licensed agents since the introduction of the Premier League.  Below I have outlined an alternative structure that could potentially be used.
The main focus for me would be on ensuring that throughout the transfer process, some kind of levy is applied and RING-FENCED for youth development.  So, in the case of Andy Carroll, for example, the £35 million fee could have a levy of, say, 2% equating to £700,000 paid to Newcastle that MUST be reinvested in youth development.  An applicable sliding scale could be applied if the player had played for another club, or, more importantly had been trained at another club's Academy or Centre of Excellence.  This would be in addition to the existing compensation arrangements and sell on clauses that go some way to protecting lower league clubs investment in youth players.  An even more radical idea would be for a similar mechanism for the professional club contributing to the grassroots club the player was originally signed from.

The above structure would mean the creation of an independent organisation with relevant oversight within the game. This is something that could potentially be centrally managed by the PFA or a combination of the Premier League, FA, Football League and the PFA. The area representatives could be organised in regions that are familiar to all of these organisations and they would independently represent footballers in their transfer and contract negotiations. The remuneration and regulation of representatives would be set by the organising body and it would actually provide opportunities for retiring footballers as a means to staying employed in football.  The football authorities could even go as far as training players (as they do with coaching qualifications) in the role of a player representative therefore actually educating players during their career in preparation for life beyond their playing days.  The cost of setting up the organisation could be funded by the Premier League Clubs and Football League Clubs based on a contribution using past expenditure on football agents as a benchmark and should represent a substantial reduction in comparison to the current amounts paid to agents (and therefore effectively lost to the game). Moreover, the concerns over regulation of agents would effectively be diminished as they would be monitored as an organisation rather than a disparate group of individuals.  

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