It is understandable, to say the least, why football fans can get so frustrated at the amount of their money that ends up in the hands of football agents. Even in the era of the billionaire foreign benefactor, the theory has always been that the fans’ wages pay the players, through the medium of paying for tickets. For there to be other well-rewarded recipients almost feels like a betrayal of that.
But the top end of English football in 2013 is not a particularly romantic place and it has certainly not turned out precisely how many expected. The release of the latest figures regarding agents’ payments reveals that, and it should be no surprise.
As anyone who follows football knows, the transfer market seems almost as lucrative, contested and popular as the leagues and cups themselves. It dominates the agenda through the summer months and in January, but seeps beyond the windows too into times that are meant to be for the game itself.
Agents, of course, are the great lubricators, enablers and catalysts of the transfer market. They work for players, they work for clubs, trying to move their clients to a better place or help fill gaps in their patrons’ squads. For all the complaints about ‘tapping up’, it is the simple fact of football that every transfer starts with a call to an agent.
It is simple economics: good players are in high demand and in short supply and so agents, who control access to them, can charge what they want to allow access to them. They are so powerful, in fact, that some clubs would even buy players they did not particular want as favours to powerful intermediaries, in the hope that they would be rewarded with someone they might not actually want further down the line.
It might not be the world that football fans wanted but it is the world they have got. The agents are here to stay.