As lucrative television contracts are making the Premier League more flush with cash than ever before, lots of interested parties are getting in on the action— including agents.
Between October and February of this season, more than £46 million was paid to agents and other intermediaries by Premier League clubs. This more or less corresponds with the winter transfer window.
At the top of the table for money paid to agents? Manchester United, with more than £10 million. That figure puts them far ahead of second place Liverpool with £6.67 million.
United didn’t bring in any new players during the winter transfer window, but they did conduct contract negotiations with David de Gea after his move to Real Madrid last summer failed to materialize. Overall, contract talks with current squad numbers accounted for 21.5% of all the money spent by Premier League clubs to cover agent compensation.
Similar figures were released for Football League clubs. In the Championship, payments to intermediaries topped out at just under £7 million, with QPR the only club to pay more than £1 million. League One clubs paid £658k and League Two clubs shelled out a very modest £163k.
These figures were released by the FA earlier today in order to comply with FIFA regulations. In addition to total payments, the FA released details of every single transaction by Premier League and Football League clubs in which a registered intermediary was involved.
These point toward a major concern with the influx of revenue for Premier League clubs. While the television contracts heralded financial stability for clubs who were able to remain in the top flight, the emerging reality shows that most of the money will end up servicing inflated transfer fees and payments to agents. (Some would argue that much of the money will end up going toward exorbitant player wages. At the risk of editorializing, that’s not something I’m particularly worked up about.) Meanwhile, needed investments in stadium improvements (including making grounds more accessible to disabled fans), academy facilities and resources, and grassroots football are at risk of being shut out of the newfound largesse. To say nothing of fans, who are seeing ticket prices increase despite the massive revenue injection.
The documents disclosed by the FA today show what many critics suspected when the new television contracts were announced— that some would be better placed to take advantage of the gold rush than others. Whether this ultimately benefits clubs or their fans in the long term remains an open question.