A long overdue clampdown on the very parasites of football

Football agents: whether you hate, loathe or just dislike them it is almost universally agreed that something needs to be done about the way they operate. Maybe I’m being a little harsh: not all agents are bad news and some really do have the best interests of their players at heart, but most of them are clearly looking out for number one and the result is that they manipulate the transfer system to bleed both clubs and players dry.

Man Utd manager Sir Alex Ferguson reflected on the involvement of agents and the negative effects they have on their clients saying:

“Management today is complex in terms of the type of player we have to deal with. A lot of players today are dominated by their agents” (Daily Mail)

Ferguson has a tempestuous relationship with many agents, including Paul Stretford – Wayne Rooney’s agent, and revealed some of the demands he has faced from agents in the past such as one agent asking Manchester United to buy him a block of flats before the player would sign for the club. Needless to say Ferguson refused but the mere fact that agents believe they are in a position to demand such things is evidence for how out of hand the role has become in our sport.

And it’s not just personal demands that the agents are making says Ferguson who also criticises the unrealistic representation of their clients abilities as a problem for clubs:

“When I get annoyed is when managers phone me and say such-and-such player – and I’m talking about players that couldn’t lace my reserve-team players’ boots – is asking for £1m a year. That’s when it becomes disappointing…the way some agents work a miracle by getting these terms for players who are not stars.” (Daily Mail)

And it’s not just Ferguson who has come across difficult agents. They exist throughout football and every season there are examples of more shady dealings. Take Joey Barton’s agent Willie McKay who received a fee for persuading his client to join QPR. Did Willie have the best interests of his player or himself at heart when making that decision?

So with the news that the FA will now be sending Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs full details of all the agents fees for the 2010/11 season finally we can see something done about the professionals in football who appear to give nothing back to the sport. It is estimated that the way that agents are paid their fees cheats the public coffers out of millions each year and HMRC are determined to clamp down on this tax evasion.

HMRC said that intends to audit all of the deals made last year in order to find out how to close down the current loopholes. Football is notorious for widespread corruption from the lowest to the highest levels and with the transfer market exploding at an exponential rate it is important that we propose checks for those involved in it so deeply, as agents are.

For updates on this and other football stories follow me on Twitter @H_Mackay

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