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.