£1.5 bil­lion just to agents!

The in­cred­i­ble amount paid out in only six years ... so, as race to seal deals pushes up prices, who ben­e­fits most?

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - THE TITLE - By Nick Har­ris

AN­OTHER win­dow of record spend­ing in the Premier League will bring an­other record wind­fall in rake-offs for agents, who have taken a stag­ger­ing £1.5bil­lion from the English game alone over the past six years.

That jaw-drop­ping fig­ure has been cal­cu­lated by Sports­mail us­ing of­fi­cial fig­ures pro­duced by the English Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion, the Premier League and the Foot­ball League, and from con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mates of agent com­mis­sions on player con­tracts.

To put it into some per­spec­tive, the roughly 2,500 first-team foot­ballers at the 92 clubs in Eng­land’s top four di­vi­sions have earned around £10bn since 2011. So the agents col­lec­tively — hun­dreds of them, with a few hand­fuls of big agen­cies and ‘su­per agents’ dom­i­nat­ing — have earned 15 per cent of that just for mov­ing those play­ers around to get them the best con­tracts pos­si­ble.

The £1.5bn breaks down into slightly more than £1bn in pay­ments made to agents by clubs, as dis­closed an­nu­ally by foot­ball’s gov­ern­ing bod­ies (see panel), and slightly less than £500mil­lion in typ­i­cal five per cent slices of player wages.

The most re­cently avail­able of­fi­cial fig­ures for agent pay­ments from Oc­to­ber 2015 to Septem­ber 2016 showed the Premier League clubs alone spent £174m in that pe­riod, while the Foot­ball League’s 72 clubs spent £46m. Those sums are fore­cast to jump above £200m and to around £50m when next dis­closed, tak­ing in this sum­mer’s ac­tiv­ity.

Some agents have be­come fa­mous in their own right — none more so than Jorge Men­des, agent to Jose Mour­inho and Cris­tiano Ron­aldo among oth­ers.

Men­des’ in­flu­ence has been heav­ily felt at Wolver­hamp­ton Wan­der­ers re­cently, with the Cham­pi­onship club spend­ing vast sums in a gam­ble that leaves them at risk of fi­nan­cial melt­down if they do not win pro­mo­tion to the Premier League this sea­son.

Wolves have twice smashed the Cham­pi­onship trans­fer record in the past eight months — pay­ing £12.8mil­lion to Ben­fica for Helder Costa in Jan­uary, then lay­ing out £15.8m to Porto for Ruben Neves last month. Both play­ers are Men­des clients.

Costa is thought to have com­manded £80,000 a week last sea­son and Neves is likely to be earn­ing sim­i­lar. The most Wolves had ever paid out in the past was £42,000 a week to Roger John­son in the Premier League.

At £7m, John­son was their big­gest pur­chase be­fore this year.

For a club whose an­nual rev­enues are so modest — £5.4m in gate re­ceipts, £3.4m in sponsorship and £3.4m in other com­mer­cial in­come — it is hard to see how they will avoid breach­ing Foot­ball League fi­nan­cial fair play rules.

Look­ing at the over­all pic­ture across English foot­ball, analysis of work by agents for Oc­to­ber 2015 to Septem­ber 2016 — when paid by clubs — high­lights var­i­ous other ma­jor agen­cies at work. The Wasser­man group (56 trans­ac­tions in the top two di­vi­sions in the pe­riod), Stel­lar Group (53) and Base Soc­cer (45) were busi­est and are pro­filed on these pages.

The polic­ing of agents was ef­fec­tively dereg­u­lated in April 2015, when it no longer be­came nec­es­sary to pass an FA test to get a li­cence. Reg­is­tered agent num­bers in Eng­land soared from 550 to 1,500, as Base Soc­cer boss Leon An­gel even noted in his firm’s fi­nan­cial ac­counts. ‘How­ever this does not ap­pear to have af­fected busi­ness,’ he writes.

It seems there re­mains plenty of money to go around.

RECORD: Wolves paid Porto £15.8m for Ruben Neves and (inset) agent Jorge Men­des

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