Thursday 20 June 2019

Clubs primed to go to war against rising agents' fees

Premier League chiefs have set the ball rolling in a process that could see players, instead of clubs, footing their representatives' huge bills

Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo of Juventus

Chris Bascombe

In the murky world of football transfers, there is a most incendiary word, one capable of making the most hardened agent flinch: "Transparency".

Trying to establish how much a representative was paid for a deal is often met with a combination of incredulity and contempt.

It is important to note that many player representatives perform an admirable and necessary job. Nevertheless, the lack of information about who represents players or managers, how much they are paid for deals and where the mega money goes is a source of exasperation.

There is a growing will for change. To not much fanfare at last June's annual meeting, the Premier League chairmen and chief executives agreed recommendations to make agents more accountable.

Among these is an insistence that any agent working in England must receive all payments from English deals into a UK bank account - a potentially catastrophic blow to the bankers of the Cayman Islands.

There would be an agent "exam" to ensure some qualification for entering the profession. Perhaps most radically, Premier League members would like a major alteration in the current system to prohibit clubs paying agents. They have requested that the Premier League and FA devise new rules so it is players - not their clubs - paying agents' fees.

Rather than make lump-sum payments, fees would be spread over the course of a player's contract. This could have a significant impact not only on the annual costs to the clubs, but the number of players (or representatives) regularly pushing for transfers. Potentially, it will be more financially beneficial for a representative to ensure his or her client remains at the club for the full term of their deal rather than being sold to get another agent fee.

Consider this hypothetical example. If your client moved from, let us say, Juventus to Manchester United in a five-year deal and you received an agent fee of £41m, you would only receive all of this if the player stayed for five years - presumably £8.2m a year - and it would come from the player's wage slip.

As was reported last June, the clubs also want to ban dual representation, where an agent represents both a client and the club. Clearly, there is potential for a conflict of interest.

Having deregulated agents in 2015 - basically passing the buck to individual associations to award licences - Fifa has acknowledged its mistake and wants to reverse this decision with fresh directives.

It supports a 5pc cap on agent fees. Figures such as the £10.6m earned by Jorge Mendes in Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Juventus, and the lavish commissions secured by Mino Raiola, provoke public disgust.

At Thursday's shareholders' meeting, the Premier League chiefs will discuss whether to push on with their plans, pause while Fifa finalises its proposals or seek to merge elements of both.

Whatever the outcome, it is possible the agent fees league table, which is published and received with nowhere near as much repugnance as it ought to be every season, may become obsolete in its current form, with agents compelled to send more invoices to their clients rather than clubs.

If such a transition is agreed, many of us will be rushing for the popcorn and settling down to enjoy the evolving relationship between a superstar player and super-agent when the next £41m bill for securing his dream move is delivered.

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