League report will 'hot up' agents' fees debate, says chairman

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The Independent Football

Football League clubs have spent more than £5m on agents' fees in the past six months, with Leeds United alone accounting for more than £1m, mostly to middlemen to facilitate the offloading of high-earning players.

Football League clubs have spent more than £5m on agents' fees in the past six months, with Leeds United alone accounting for more than £1m, mostly to middlemen to facilitate the offloading of high-earning players.

A club-by-club breakdown for the 72 non-Premiership clubs will be published on Thursday, but the League's chairman, Sir Brian Mawhinney, has already predicted that the "enormous increase" in some clubs' payments will "hot up" the debate about the huge sums of money draining from the game.

Leeds' situation is sure to provoke outrage from fans, although for once it might be directed not at the board but at the agents who banked significant sums as their clients moved on, several of them without fees. Leeds' predicament was that without the agents' co-operation, the club would have been saddled with even greater liabilities by retaining certain players. Leeds will not be the only club coming under scrutiny, with several others understood to have spent six-figure sums on agents' fees for "free" signings, loan deals and contract extensions and terminations.

Mawhinney decided last year to take the unprecedented step of publishing payments to agents to highlight the financial drain on clubs. In the first six-monthly report, released in July, it was revealed that the clubs spent £1.4m between January and June 2004. Thursday's second report, covering the period from July to December, will show a huge increase of more than £3.6m. Of the £5m-plus that will be declared, 88 per cent, or some £4.5m, will have been spent by clubs in the Championship alone.

In the last report, Derby County emerged as the top spenders, paying £279,000 in the review period. They were followed by West Ham United (£243,500) and Wigan Athletic (£145,000). Speaking about the rise in payments, which rose 300 per cent in the Championship in six months, Mawhinney said: "It is an enormous increase and when we publish the results club by club later this week there will be some significant discussions. The League decided to publish these figures every six months. Since we published the first figures it has focused interest in the debate about agents. My guess is that when we publish the figures the debate will hot up."

* The League has confirmed a five per cent rise in attendances over the first half of this season. More than 9.4 million have watched matches in the League's three divisions, an average of almost 10,000 per game. The rise is largely due to the relegation from the Premiership of Leeds.

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