Time for transparency over these transfer deals?

Corruption is rife in football, it’s a sad fact that few can protest and it’s tainted the beautiful game for far too long. The financial documents of each club can no longer be shrouded in mystery; it’s time to untangle this web of lies, deceit and confusion.

FIFA have sought to rectify this growing issue with the introduction of their new transfer matching system. The scheme requires clubs to submit their financial details with FIFA, including individual payments made whenever they complete an international transfer. They hope that this will help eliminate any illegal or questionable payments that are made on behalf of either club during negotiations.

“We know there is extreme behaviour out there,” said Mark Goddard, general manager of the transfer matching system. “There are still limitations with this system, but we are trying to ensure money is being paid between clubs. We are drawing a line in the sand, that nobody can get in between clubs.”

The report, which does not include transfers from within the same country, revealed that a staggering £82m had been splurged on agents in 2011 and the average payment to an agent during an individual deal worked out at just under £154k. It’s clear that player representatives are making a tidy sum during these deals but I’m struggling to understand how their role justifies such an enormous salary. These figures don’t even take into account the money that’s paid to the agent directly from the player.

The phrase ‘undisclosed fee’ is often the bane of every supporter’s life. The rumour mill continues to churn long after the confirmation of the transfer as the press and fans alike try to uncover the actual fee. The decision not to announce an exact figure usually revolves around a risk of embarrassment, either the buying club want to avoid being mocked for paying over the odds (Johan Elmander to Bolton) or the selling club don’t wish fans to know that the player went for less than his ‘supposed’ valuation (Kaboul to Tottenham).

There is also the stark realisation that no transfers are ever really free. Of course in some instances there will not have been a payment between the two clubs themselves but there will always be the cost of signing on fees, additional add-ons and of course aforementioned agent fees.

In a previous article of mine I eluded to a recent interview in which West Ham co-chairman David Sullivan revealed the intricate details of the move that saw Demba Ba join Newcastle.

“As I say, he was on £35 grand a week and I offered him £45 grand a week to stay, but he went to Newcastle. His agent got £2 million to take him to Newcastle.”

We could easily take these comments with a pinch of salt, the ramblings of a chairman who feels aggrieved by his own mistakes but the truth is we have no idea of the specific implications in any transfer deal that remain undisclosed. Isn’t it about time clubs were more open with their figures, especially when an increasing number of teams are descending into the murky waters of administration.

As a Palace supporter I can fully relate to the trials and tribulations being endured by Portsmouth fans at the moment but it’s difficult to sympathise with a club that has continued to operate outside their means. Trevor Birch, former chief executive of Chelsea and Leeds, who will front the administration for the firm PKF revealed, “I’m used to dealing with clubs in crisis; 30% of the clubs in the Championship are paying wages in excess of 100% of turnover.” A truly worrying statement that highlights the current status and grim outlook of the Football League.

The unyielding pursuit for success is financially crippling clubs. In this past week alone it has been revealed that the cost of the Glazers’ takeover at Manchester United has exceeded £500m. Elsewhere Aston Villa suffered a loss of nearly £54m (for the year ending 31 May 2011) as they struggled to cope with the turmoil following the departure of Martin O’Neill as manager.

In Scotland I don’t think anyone can fully comprehend just how much money Rangers owed the taxman. Every day this summer seemed to deliver another financial blow to Gers fans, who could only sit and watch as the interest on the debt accumulated. The consequence saw the club go out of business and having to start a fresh in the lower reaches of scottish football.

Is it time for the FA to step in and thrust the account books under a microscope? Perhaps teams should accept the risk of ridicule and be more open with their expenses because one point remains abundantly clear, going out of business is no laughing matter.