This week it emerged that football league clubs in England paid a total of £21.5 million to agents during the 2012-13 season. This saw a £170,000 decrease from the previous year’s total. Now of course there is a large difference between clubs. For example Hartlepool United, Blackpool, Accrington Stanley, Crewe Alexandra, AFC Wimbledon, Morecambe and Barnet managed to avoid paying agents completely, whereas other clubs spent significant amounts such as Cardiff City (£1,836,193), Blackburn Rovers (£3,538,034) and Wolves (£1,767,300). These figures are a large cause for concern with some clubs spending so much money on agents.
Greg Clarke, the chairman of the football league, admits there is a problem saying that “again, this is a considerable amount of money to be leaving the game.” It seems almost farcical that when many clubs are struggling financially and administration is a constant threat they continue to pay large sums to agents. One of the more astonishing figures is from Coventry. Although they have failed to pay the rent on their stadium and are on course for a financial meltdown they managed to pay agents over £250,000 the season. It seems the priorities for football clubs are currently completely wrong.
It should be a big source of worry to the football league that clubs feel the need to spend huge sums on agents to attract top players. With only seven clubs in the football league avoiding paying agents, it is very obvious that agents are now very much engrained in the transfer process. This amount of money leaving the game can only have a negative effect.
Blackpool chairman Karl Oyston commented at being “horrified at the levels of money that goes out of football, never to be seen again. That £21m could and should have made a massive difference.” “
“If clubs were that keen to spend that money, they should have invested it in their own community trusts rather than paying it to agents.”
Oyston makes a very valid point. What impact could £21 million have if invested in the club rather than being spent on agents. There is lots of discussion about how the English game is in trouble with a lack of coaches, facilities and opportunities. £21 million could go someway to try and improve this situation.
For example, it costs £695 to achieve the UEFA B coaching badge. If clubs used some of the money they spent on agents to instead help coaches to achieve their badges the state of the English game may well be improved. Or, clubs could spend the money on improving the standard of youth facilities. Facilities in countries such as Germany, Italy and Spain are generally far better than facilities in England. Investment in these facilities could help the next generation of English footballers have the best possible chance of being world class players.
There can be no doubt that the figures published today are very worrying, especially when considered that the figures for premier league clubs- which will be much higher- are not included. It is time that football clubs in England started to get their priorities right. There is no need for agents to have such a large impact. Their presence is not legally required. It is time that agents were removed from the transfer process and the money saved was used to improve the game in this country. Plans are in place to try and lower the numbers with the football league hoping that the Financial Fair Play regulations will see a large fall, however the football league and the F.A need to keep monitoring the situation and may have to act in the future. Investment in the English game is as important now as it has ever been and so it is time that clubs stop wasting money on paying agents and instead invest in the future of the game.