Agents of misery

The gravy train for football intermediaries

Understandably, there was much consternation over the amounts spent by Premier League clubs on agents between February 2018 and January 2019. The headline figure, more than a quarter of a billion pounds across that single 12-month period, was startling.

If you felt exercised by that news, perhaps you’d prefer to look away now than to take a look at the next two data exhibits we have for you. These explorable graphics provide an overview of each year’s individual spending by clubs, as well as the aggregate for all 10 seasons between 2009-10 and 2018-19.

Liverpool, having spent a record £43,795863 across the last two transfer windows, head the list, tipping the scales at more than £150m across the period.

Roll over the graphic linked below to see how much your club spent year by year. (NB: for 2016, only half a year’s data are available, since neither the Football Association nor the Premier League made public the amounts paid during the summer of that period.)

And we can see a clear tipping point in the acceleration of fees paid: the deregulation of the agency trade by FIFA in April 2015, when anyone who wasn’t a bankrupt could become a football intermediary without so much as a licensing test. They’ve been filling their boots since, it seems.

Even without access to the amounts paid on agents in the summer transfer outlay of 2016, we see the total amount spent by all of the clubs to have played in the Premier League over the 10-season timeframe came to a whopping £1.241 billion.

It seems the Premier League themselves are just as worried as fans about the amount of money draining out of the game. According to Sam Wallace in the Telegraph, the Premier League were set to discuss a raft of new regulations at its meeting of shareholder clubs this Friday.

Among them is a move against dual representation, which has always seemed morally questionable. In whose interest is the agent acting if it is not his client, the player, who is paying his bills but instead that player’s employer, the club? He who pays the piper calls the tune, as they say.

Daniel Geey, the sports lawyer who tweets as @FootballLaw and author of the transfer-market exposé Done Deal, told “As long as a player is willing to sign a conflict waiver, that is deemed appropriate and necessary practice and it can be signed off. That’s what the Football Association has mandated.

“But that may change, depending on what the the Premier League and FIFA decide.

“I don’t think fans would be as concerned if players paid their agents. The numbers are higher because of the way agents’ remuneration has been traditionally structured.”

Would you? Please feel free to share your thoughts below.

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