The Premier League started publishing fees paid by its clubs to agents from the 2008-09 season. This is the aggregated table since that time for all clubs who have been in the Premier League for any of those four seasons.
No surprise that Man City and Chelsea top the table, and Liverpool have been trying to spend their way back to the top increasingly desperately for a couple of decades now. At the bottom, I have to wonder which deal at Blackpool broke ranks, as they were admirably prudent.
As you can see, a total of £286m has gone into agents’ pockets during these four years. Looked at one way, you could say that it’s £286m that could have benefited fans, but hasn’t. But you have to ask whether that money would have stayed in the game anyway, or whether it would have just ended up with the players. I don’t think there’s any certainty. Even if all the clubs joined together and agreed that they would make no more payments to agents, that doesn’t change the overall amount they have (or are prepared) to spend, so it would go either to the players or to agents via the players. Unless agents are banned entirely they will always end up with some of the pie one way or another. However, it would be cleaner if payments direct to agents were banned. If players want to pay agents that’s their choice; I don’t see why clubs should do it.
The decision to publish figures was taken for more transparency, but the greatest transparency would surely be for clubs to make no payments to agents at all and publish exactly what they pay players – who can then do what they like with the money. That way everyone, including the fans, will know whether clubs are getting value.
This is primarily an Arsenal blog, so what of their payments to agents? At first sight it seems surprising that a club that often makes profits on transfers should be the fifth highest aggregate spender on agents’ fees, and 50 per cent higher than Manchester United. It seems even more surprising when you consider that agents for most of Arsenal’s players don’t even need to negotiate – Arsene Wenger awards them new contracts anyway!
Maybe I’m missing something here. Maybe there is a good reason for all the payments Arsenal make. I must admit I am having trouble seeing it.
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