Bent Agents Are Fleecing Fans

WHEN an agent adds a nought on for his own commision, when someone accepts a generous ‘gift’ in return for opening doors, when a hefty slice of a transfer fee works its way back through the offshore accounts of a parasitic chain of advisors, it is theft. Pure and simple.
You can disguise it anyway you want – consultancy fees, facility charges, business expenses – but artificially inflating figures so that there is enough for everyone to get their noses in the trough is cynical, dishonest and criminal.
It is theft. And ultimately it is theft from you.

The stratospheric wages and transfer deals paid out in this closed amoral world are not generated by shrewd suits or number-crunching magicians. The cash comes ultimately from fans pockets, through tickets, satellite subscriptions, replica shirts, a thousand commercial tie-ins and from sponsors from UEFA ‘family of football’ happy to stump up because they make fortunes from products targeted at the crowd’s demographic.
Football corruption is not a victimless crime because the cost is passed on indirectly to us all. That the bent agents, managers and players believe football coffers to be a bottomless pit has repercussions: it pushes transfers and wages up across the board and it pushes up recruitment costs because the straight clubs must shell out even more to match the packages being offered by those breaking the rules. And those costs are passed on at the gate.
Worst, the unchalleged currency of the brown envelope has a pernicious, corrosive effect on the moral health of the game. As the clubs willing to let corrupt bosses deal with bent agents prosper so the pressure is on other clubs to follow suit to compete in the transfer market. And as long as there are no sanctions against the bent individuals or cheating clubs then the incentives to join the unscruplous scrum rise.
In some ways Boro’s straight dealing position has damaged the club. We know for instance that Steve Gibson has at times refused to push ahead deals for good players because of ‘unorthadox’ demands by agents, for instance, for a cash payment up front before face-to-face talks will happen even after both club shave agreed a fee.
That may well be one of the reasons why Boro’s summers shopping does not always go smoothly and targets wriggle off the hook. If that is the case then it is a reason for pride that the club refuse to be implicated in this immoral mess
Even if tonight’s Panorama soccer bungs special (BBC1 9pm) falls short in naming names the authorities should take action. In fact, they should have taken it long ago and their failure to do so is a far more blatant case of bringing the game into disrepute than players slagging referees.
Football must be honest and admit it has a problem and it must take concrete actions.
It should be unambiguously illegal for a club to pay an agent in any form: agents may be neccessary in such a complex market but they are employed by the player so let the player stump up. It removes a grey area and gives the player an incentive to keep a commision down.
All transfers must be transparent. They should be paid into via an FA/UEFA run clearing house so that the figures can be seen to add up and the selling club receive all of the fee.
All infringements must be punished by points deductions. Repeat offences should mean relegation. There is no room for pussy-footing around on some fundemental issues.
Players who ask for, or have knowledge of their agents asking for bungs must be suspended for the season. That makes the risks higher than the advantages for the buying club.
Officials who offer or ask for bungs should be kicked out of the game without exception. There is no place for cheats prepared to steal from their own club.
And whistleblowers should be given encouragement, protection and, in exceptional circumstances, immunity if they can help drive this scourge from the game. It may mean short-term seismic shocks and some big name scalps but if it can secure the long term health and integrity of the game then it will be well worthwhile.

9 thoughts on “Bent Agents Are Fleecing Fans

  1. Vic
    Well said, there is no such thing as a victimless crime.
    Sadly the people who oversee football are guilty of taking vast sums out of the game without bungs. When was the draw for the World Cup last held in the function room of Luton Town and the delegates stayed at the Travelodge by junction 12 of the M1? Who funds these jollies? The fans.
    If football gets its act together it will have a big committee looking at all the evidence and the fans will pay for that.
    It is just like when ofwat fines Thames Water for leakage. A tax payer funded Quango fines Thames Water, they pay the fine to the government. And where does the money come from? Gosh, there is a surprise it is Thames Water customers.
    Whilst the powers that be have their trotters in the trough dont expect any sensible action to look after the fans.
    As I have posted many times before Boro’s merchandise is as big a rip off as most other clubs, our tickets are as over priced as most, our PR is a shambles at times as are ticket policies. But at least we know it is our mess, at least we are not giving huge profits to JJB etc, at least the club keeps as much in house as possible, at least we have made a stand against agents. Lets just hope, as has been well trailed, we are not involved in any dodgy dealings.

  2. Action speaks louder than words so when are the fans going to do something about it?
    Everyone in football just passes the buck and blame everyone else. They all need to take responsibility as everyone is to blame for their little part of it all. All transfers and the clubs accounts should be fully transparent copied sent to all season ticket holders. We are the share holders in the club really

  3. Ian
    Having just seen tonight’s programme, we are involved in a certain sort of way, in that Nathan Porritt has been tapped up! How on earth can agents be allowed to get away with such scandalous behaviour, tapping up a fifteen year old for goodness sake?
    The lad has certainly been badly advised and I would hope that the club help and support him (and his family) in understanding how to behave responsibly and honestly in his future career. I fear that this kind of media attention could have leave a deep psychological scar on one so young. Lets hope he continues to progress and stays with the club.
    And asuming he does make it, lets he hope he can recognise the ethos of honesty with which Steve Gibson tries to run our club, and lets he hope he sees the opporunities afforded to youngsters at the Boro, more so than at any other English club, and repay Steve, the management team and the fans with some glorious performances.
    And one final word, the sooner UEFA insist that clubs have to use a proportion of local/academy players, the better, since surely this will have to have an impact on the number of (dodgy) deals done?

  4. “when [someone] accepts a generous ‘gift’ in return for opening doors”… that was a good guess. Do the press “know” things that it is not possible to print?
    AV writes: sorry rebel but I have edited that on legal advice

  5. Vic and fellow bloggers
    Agree with all you’ve said. But it seems to me that the issue is relatively easily solved by a small (in numbers and overhead) but beautifully formed independent regulators who set the market rules and with real powers of investigation and sanction.
    And deals should be transparent and visible to the customers who are paying the bills.
    By independent, I don’t mean the FA or a government quango. If the industry is serious and wants it this can work. Self-regulation never works.
    I think we have to be clear about what is referred to as ‘tapping up’ though. There is no other walk of life where your ability to ply your trade with anyone you want is fettered by not being able to talk to them about or apply for a vacancy or offer your services without your current employer knowing. There are many reasons why you wouldn’t want them to know. Why should footballers be any different? Issues of fairness and compensation can be dealt with through regulation and transparency.
    Practically, in what is a small and closed industry in terms of the numbers of people involved, the sorts of conversations we saw last night are always going to go on. So policing it – even if you want to – becomes impossible.
    On last night’s Panorama, I think it was a badly missed opportunity and may even cloud the issues for other investigations. I think it will now be very difficult to pursue anything in the courts or a disciplinary sense with any of those named.
    Predicatably after all the Beeb’s hype and 2 years worth of licence payers cash (Whose Lloyds/TSB account did the £50k in tenners come out of, by the way? Maybe we need an undercover enquiry into waste and improper accounting at the BBC) they failed to come up with anything that will stick or indeed anything that we haven’t heard in a variety of forms before.
    The only thing that was mildly of interest was the dullness of the whole thing. Whoever thought that this ‘glamourous’ world of wheeler dealing displayed all the charisma and business intellect of The Office.
    How is it that these agents, none of whom seemed to be the sharpest tools in the box, are alleged to rung rings round the captains of industry that are Prem chairmen and chief execs. Could it really be true that once they step into the club boardroom their business brains turn to custard?
    That players are impressed by these guys and allow them to represent them doesn’t say much for their common sense either.
    Maybe the agents on the programme are not the top notch or even a representative sample but the dregs of the industry who can only do business the bent way. It would have been instructive to have seen the other side at work – the top notchers with impeccable pedigree and get their view of how to stop improper practice.

  6. John Myers
    I was out for a family meal and forgot to tape the programme but caught up with some of the highlights (if that is the correct term).
    It is hardly surprising that Chelsea and our best friends Liverpool are involved in tapping up one of our youngsters. Whether the truth will ever come out is another matter.
    Even more unlikely is that anything will be done long term. We all guess that there are the codes that people adhere to and that underneath the surface are the people talking to each other. Not specifics of course but along the lines of what do you think of such and such a player and then nods become winks become an official approach etc.
    We all suspect that the rumours of a player being unsettled or of a club being interested in a player must start somewhere and it isnt all made up by journalists. Clubs, agents, players are all at it.
    It is difficult to see how it could work otherwise. The problem is when trotters get into troughs.
    Maybe someone will get hung out to dry in the same way as George Graham, maybe the agents will get all the blame – as the saying goes it is the 99% bad eggs that get the 1% a bad name. Whatever the individual rights and wrongs the problems are probably institutionalised.

  7. I thought the Panorama programme was very disapointing , basically one Prem. manager allegedly taking bungs but then a comment at the end of the programme saying that up to 18 past and present mangers are alleged to have
    taken bungs. Not really earth shattering reporting.
    What I find appalling is the prospect that if the allegations were to be true we would be in a situation where wealthy, extremely well paid men (ie football managers) are taking ‘bungs’. Why? What are they going to do with the cash? Aren’t they rich already? Pure greed can be the only answer.
    Clearly what we do need is clarity on what is going on and I have no faith in the FA’s ability to deliver that. It’s a tough subject to investigate by its very nature people are hardly going to be forthcoming with information as last nights programme proved.

  8. So what is new in last night’s Panorama programme? Rip offs in football have gone on for ever.
    First it was club’s holding players in bondage with a maximum wage contract and no chance of a transfer unless the club sanctioned a move.
    You always have had club chairman maximising their interests. Just take the transfer of three of Boro’s star players to Liverpool Souness, David Hodgeson and Craig Johnson. Certainly the club never benefited or the supporters because the club never replaced the players. I hasten to add there was nothing illeagal in the process.
    Players got themselve agents to stop themselves being ripped off and have succeeded to the detriment of only one group of people, as several writers have said it is we the fans. We either put up with it or stop going to matches.
    In my own way I refuse to buy any merchandice at exorbitant prices and we know what some Chairmen think of supporters who do.
    I suspect that if nothing is done about the matter gates will continue to fall and if ever Sky cannot make money out of the game and pull the plug then football as we know it is dead in the water.

  9. Why?
    AV writes:
    Although the phrase I used and you quoted was written before the Panorama programme and was a general point rather than a specific identification we have been advised that given the debate today it could still be defamatory.

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