The first thing we do, let’s kill all the agents (Shakespeare, almost)

By Tony Attwood

OK, you might be expecting me to argue in a piece about what is wrong with football, that the force blocking all change is the notoriously conservative Football Association, and yes’ I’d go along with that.

But there is another force acting against all change, and they are much more powerful than the FA in England, because they operate across Europe.  I speak of course, of the agents.

There was a time when the agent negotiated his player’s contract with the club and earned a percentage on that contract, as is done for actors, singers and other artists.

But no more.  Today, agents negotiate transfer fees with clubs and they earn commissions from both sides: one from the selling club and one from the buying club.  Which means that agents have a deep vested interest in getting players to move as often as possible for as much as possible.

So far the footballing authorities have been scared stiff of trying to deal with agents, so central to football financing have the agents become.   If a club says, “no double commissions” the agents simply won’t deal with that club.

If a country’s footballing authority says “no double commissions” the agents either refuse to deal with that country or else they arrange backhanders so that clubs still pay the agent, but through bank accounts in countries without strong government oversight of the industry.

The introduction of transfer windows, rather than the old all-the-year transfer arrangements was meant in part to try and get agents under control.  But the agents then demanded two transfer windows, not to help the clubs, but to allow agents to increase the number of transfers.

Two windows a year mean that agents can push for an increase in salary, or a move, all the year round – we are never more than a few months away from a transfer window.

But of course the agents could not have done this without the complicity of the newspapers and the blogs.  For without a ceaseless stream of untrue transfer rumours, the market would be much less active.

As you may have noticed, each transfer window, Untold Arsenal records the various nonsense rumours that are circulated.   Now you may have noticed also that each rumour is ascribed by the reporting newspaper, TV channel or blog, to another newspaper, TV channel or blog.  So it goes around and around.

If what the English papers and bloggers say was true, not one transfer rumour ever starts in England – they all come from overseas.   But if you look at the newspapers that play the same game in other countries you get the same thing there – they are ascribing the source to the English newspapers and blogs.

So where do they come from?

Well, it’s not too hard to guess.  It is the agents.  The agents slip stories to newspaper journalists saying “have you seen what the Spanish press are saying about this Arsenal player?” and the journalist says no because by and large he doesn’t speak Foreign, and so takes the agent’s word

Transfer rumours are not a harmless game, any more than they are a representation of reality.  They represent the methodology through which agents and others seek to arrange ever more transfers and thus ever more money for themselves and their clients.

Of course we all know that 97% of transfer rumours never turn into reality, but this doesn’t matter to the agents, because the point of the whole game is to push the club either to pay more money to the player via a contract extension, or to persuade the club to sell the player, either way, so that the agent can get a commission.

The media is at the heart of the scam.  If the media did not constantly report these rumours, then the market would cool down, and prices would drop to a reasonable level.  As it is clubs are constantly putting themselves in debt in order to retain or buy players and so the economics of football get worse and worse.

Of course in the end the bubble bursts… and maybe that is happening now, and if it does happen, to manipulate the words of Shakespeare in Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2 where Dick The Butcher, says “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” may well become useful.

Not that I am advocating murder, but if we changed “lawyers” to “agents” we’d be getting close to the point.


3 Replies to “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the agents (Shakespeare, almost)”

  1. The issue that seems to anger is the parasitic nature of those that do not contribute to the sport but leech off the income causing a taxation on spectators.

    The answer is to ensure taxation of the parasitic areas are sufficiently robust to make it untenable.

    Every area of parasitic trading should be addressed including the equity markets. The commodity markets need more rigerous monitoring as trading of commodities has a specific product.

  2. reminds me of the recent athletic article on failed Arsenal signings, a couple were due to the agent’s demands

  3. I’d be happy to see them all exit the stage left , right and centre .
    We’d save quite a bit too.

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