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Irish-based operation cashes in on stars' earning power

He's being talked about as the next Rio Ferdinand, but Sporting Lisbon youngster Eric Dier, currently on loan at Everton, faced a problem if he wanted to make a permanent move to the Premier League -- his third-party ownership by a Dublin-based Investment Fund.

Last week Quality Football Ireland Limited (QFIL), based at Clanwilliam Square in Dublin 2, and an Irish offshoot of the LA-based talent agency CAA (Creative Artists Agency) Sports, sold their 50 per cent stake in the 18-year-old back to Sporting Lisbon.

Dier, perhaps prematurely, is already being tipped as a future English centre-back. He is English-born but moved to Portugal when he was a youngster.

Third-party ownership is not permitted in England but it is permitted in other countries including Turkey and Portugal. Peter Kenyon, the former chief executive at Chelsea who was with CAA Sports until last October, was an adviser to the Dublin fund headquartered at the offices of accountancy firm Williams Merrigan.

The directors of QFIL are partners in the firm Rory Williams and Wendy Merrigan. The third director of the company is Michael Rubel, employed as general counsel to CAA.

In total, 70 per cent of QFIL is owned by CAA Sports International which represents David Beckham, Ronaldo, Barcelona and Chelsea as well as Anderson and Nani of Manchester United among 500 athletes, coaches, broadcasters and sports personalities.

The most recent accounts for QFIL listed its principal activity as "the acquisition of economic rights participation agreements" (ERPAs) with certain professional football clubs whereby the company would acquire a portion of the economic rights of the clubs in relation to one or more professional football players under contract with the clubs.

Last year, the Dublin-based fund made investments totalling €7.25m into players at two different clubs.

Sport is one of the fastest growing elements of the CAA global business but it's still best known for its links with Hollywood.

George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg are also represented by the agency.

Interestingly, football super-agent Jorge Mendes' company Gestifute is involved in partnership with CAA. Mendes was the man behind Ronaldo's transfer to Real Madrid, and the less successful transfer of Bebe to Old Trafford.

Mendes' company Gestifute International Limited is also based in Dublin. Last week, Gestifute headed futebolfinance.com's list of the top agencies in the game.

Internationally, Gestifute, led by Mr Mendez, represents 83 "assets" including Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho and Ronaldo. Its assets are valued at €536m.

Its Irish division, though small, is profitable. Its last published accounts for the year ending December 31, 2010 showed that profit on ordinary activities before tax amounted to €6,754,932 -- up from €4,741,037 in 2009. The company reported "solid financial performance" with its main business risk being the "ability of clients to switch to other agent providers."

They paid €844,618 in corporation tax set at Ireland's much envied and contentious rate of 12.5 per cent.

Gestifute's Irish operation realised a net profit after tax of just shy of €6m.

Gestifute was registered in Ireland in May 2004. The transfers of three players to Chelsea Ricardo Carvalho, Tiago and Paulo Ferreira. went through two months later and the Dublin-registered company's accounts for that year show that in its first seven months it had a tax charge of €211,000.

Since then, those elements of Mendes' football agency which are channelled through this Irish company have generated close on a further €3m for the Exchequer.

Sunday Indo Sport