Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Agents Are the Cancer That Needs To Be Cut Out of Football

Okay, so clearly I was wrong. I had thought that Sam Allardyce was the answer to England's serial inability to become at least the sum of their parts if not more than the sum of them. I had thought that his no nonsense style and proven ability to create teams out of bargain basement buys would be what was required. It seems I had also overlooked the man's slightly dodgy nature.

Perhaps we can be forgiven though. After all who else was there to turn to? So desperate were we back in June that some even considered bringing Glenn Hoddle back. As it is Gareth Southgate has now been given the nod, at least temporarily. Don't be surprised if that is made permanent. Seriously, who else is there? And at least Southgate's career in management is sufficiently short to ensure that he has not had the opportunity to be sullied by the excess that made Allardyce so cynical and thus so flawed.

As to football's enduring problems, well it is time that the football authorities took a long hard look at the role of agents. The game is awash in cash and agents are the cynical middle men who have seen their opportunities. Clubs don't need to get caught talking to other clubs' players illicitly - so called tapping up. They get agents to do it for them. Agents feed stories to the newspapers in an attempt to get clubs to offer new contracts lest their stars are enticed away by other clubs who have probably expressed no interest in them. Players are unsettled by talk of how much money they should be earning or could be earning if they demand a transfer to a club that is dangling the cash, whether or not this is the case.

Agents are acting for both players and for clubs and their conflict of interest is there for all to see. The deal for Paul Pogba over the summer earned his agent, Mino Raiola, the obscene sum of £20 million for facilitating the deal. And the footballing authorities wonder why the game has become ever more corrupt. Given the money in the English game it is no surprise to see that the problem is particularly bad here. And given the insecurity of their jobs it is also no surprise to see that some managers are fond of a bung, although the greed of some, like Allardyce, is nevertheless astonishing.

But it is agents and their dealings that is at the core of this. These are the foxes in the coop. This blog has long argued that agents should act for players alone and should perform the role that agents do in other industries: namely negotiate contracts with clubs and take a percentage of the earnings of the players as their commission. They should definitively not be getting paid anything by the clubs themselves and such payments should be banned immediately.

The money washing around in football has corrupted it and made it dirty. Clubs ever more desperate to buy success or to prevent failure have splashed cash and put up with the outrageous demands of agents to gain them access to the world's best players. But if there was a crackdown on agent commissions then that would free up money that would then stay within football. Instead of lining the pockets of agents the money could be used either by the clubs to buy players, to improve facilities or maybe even cut ticket prices for fans! I know. But I had to offer it as a possibility.

But more importantly it would be a way of disincentivising the kind of corruption that the Telegraph has unearthed but that has been suspected for a long time.

Is England the laughing stock of world football again? Maybe so. But at least we are shocked and outraged by such behaviour and at least the FA acted swiftly to remove Allardyce.

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