Report Reveals Clubs Spent £340m on Agents' Fees
Tue 28th Feb 2012 | Money & Finance
Over £340m was spent on agents throughout Europe according to a new report.
The detailed report published by the CIES Football Observatory reveals that yearly turnover for football intermediaries (agents) in UEFA member national associations is around £340m. The study also highlights the great level of concentration in the player representation market: half of the big-5 league footballers are represented by 83 football agents or agencies.
The Premier League’s member clubs spent around £72m on agents’ fees in 2010 with a total of 742 transactions in that period.
While intermediaries acting in the transfers of footballers have existed since almost the birth of the professional game, the profession of agent was not officially recognised until 1991 when FIFA established the first official licensing system. In November 2011, there were 6,082 licensed agents worldwide: 41% of them were domiciled within countries hosting the big five European leagues: England, Spain, Germany, Italy and France.
The report highlights that the big five league players’ representation market is highly concentrated: half of the footballers are managed by 83 football agents or agencies. The study also revealed the existence of closed relational networks that clearly favours the concentration of players under the control of a few agents. As such footballers are not equally distributed between intermediaries. Conversely, dominant actors exist alongside dominated agents.
Despite the high concentration of players and the fierce competitiveness in the representation market, every year this profession attracts new aspirants who desire to become agents. For many of them their ambitions will be not fulfilled and they will formally remain licensed agents without being able to make a living from it.
The report also revealed that on average, licensed agents have seven years of work experience in the transfer market. Interestingly, one quarter of them first operated without a regular license and shows that licensed agents are clearly not the only intermediaries involved in the representation market for football players.
More than half of the respondents (54%) worked in the football industry before they entered the representation market as an agent. On the whole, 23% of licensed agents had a career in football as a player, roughly 13% scouted players, 7.5% worked as football manager and 5.5% were sporting directors. The high proportion of former professional footballers among licensed agents confirms that this profession is often seen by players as a possibility to re-orientate their career in capitalising on existing social networks.
From the report it also appears that licensed agents provide multiple services beyond that of private job placement. While negotiating is the most frequent service provided (98% of our respondents), almost two thirds of them also assist their clients with marketing and endorsement contracts and half offer legal counselling and dispute resolution. Surprisingly, only a minority of agents (46%) support their clients in personal care activities such as finding a house or flat, organise travel, helping family members, etc.
This result shows that the general view of agents “baby-sitting” their protégés does not correspond to the reality. The former are above all busy in spinning webs and brokering deals. This is confirmed by the findings on the frequency of tasks performed. The only activity that a majority of agents undertakes daily is networking for transfers (61.2%). About 40% of agents also scout players and update on relevant information on a daily basis. At the opposite end of the table, only 16.9% of them assist players with their current needs.
Interestingly, only 42% of the players represented by agents are senior professionals. This result clearly indicates that most of the agents are above all active in the search of young talents through whom making money in the future. While promising players can also take advantage from this situation, the pressure that intermediaries may exert on them is a controversial issue. The necessity for many agents to broker deals on a short-term basis to make a living from their profession is often detrimental to young players’ career prospects.
In order to develop their activity, licensed agents also work closely with other professionals in football. According to the report, sporting directors are clearly indicated as the most important business partners when placing players, followed by football managers.
The great proportion of agents who manage the careers of both players and managers raises the question on conflicts of interest existing in the representation market. The importance of this problem is even greater considering that more than 70% of the respondents also assist clubs in buying, selling or scouting players. All these figures reflect the existence of intricate situations with a lot of vested interests calling for more transparency.
From this perspective, the decision of the Premier League to disclose the figures on commission fees paid by clubs to agents is very beneficial. FIFA is also favourable to publishing remunerations made to intermediaries (Villiger 2011), which are now registered in the online platform developed for international transfers (Transfer Matching System).
Posted by: Aaron Gourley
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