The ongoing leakage of football's wealth to agents was highlighted again yesterday with the publication of the latest Football League agents' fees report, which showed a 41 per cent increase in payments to middle men. Spending on agents' fees between July and December 2006 by the 72 non-Premiership clubs totalled £6.2m, against £4.4m in the same period last season. That represents a £1.8m increase, or 41 per cent. The biggest spenders were Southampton, whose spending was £842,533, followed by Sunderland (£594,000), then Stoke (£560,000) and Birmingham (£519,950).
No other clubs spent more than £500,000, but the average spend in the Championship was still £229,000. Only one Championship club, Colchester, paid no money to agents. League One clubs paid a total of £505,305, although five paid nothing, while, in League Two, total payments were £220,065, but the majority (15 clubs) paid nothing.
The 20 Premiership clubs undoubtedly pay the lion's share of agents' fees, with single deals being worth up to £3m for brokering. That is the sum that Pini Zahavi negotiated for himself to move one of his clients, Yakubu, from Portsmouth to Middlesbrough in 2005. But the true extent of payments at the top level is unknown because there is little or no transparency about such matters.
The Premier League has always been unwilling to force transparency. An Independent investigation earlier this year estimated that agents take between £125m and £150m per year, directly and indirectly, from English football's four top divisions.
The Football League broke new ground in September 2003 by voting to introduce the publication of agents' fees. Yesterday's report is the sixth time the League has made the figures public. It showed that the 72 clubs engaged in 2,034 transactions (signings, contract updates, contract cancellations and loans) between 1 July last year and 31 December. Agents were paid in 497 of those transactions.
In addition to the 21 clubs who paid nothing, another 30 committed £5,000 or less to agents in the period.
The League's chairman, Lord Mawhinney, said: "The new agents' regulations have helped bring greater transparency and integrity to the transfer system. In making these changes, we fully understood the culture of paying agents was deeply embedded and would take time to reverse. These figures underline that, with clubs spending, on average, more than £30,000 per day."
Payments to middle men outside the Premiership
Jul-Dec 06/Jul-Dec 05
Crystal Palace £433,818/£100,000
West Bromwich £370,518/n/a
Sheffield Wed £85,000/£51,500
Bradford City £40,000/£29,400
Brighton & HA £37,500/£255,000
Bristol City £127,980/£86,850
Carlisle Utd £5,500/£3,120
Leyton Orient £29,000/£17,500
Nottingham For £6,000/£124,950
Five clubs did not pay agents: Blackpool, Cheltenham, Crewe, Huddersfield, Port Vale
Boston Utd £5,000/0
Bristol Rovers £26,500/£29,000
Grimsby £21,000 £13,560
Milton Keynes £55,500/£46,250
15 clubs did not pay agents: Accrington Stanley, Barnet, Bury, Chester, Hartlepool, Hereford, Lincoln, Mansfield, Notts County, Peterborough, Rochdale, Stockport, Walsall, Wrexham, WycombeReuse content