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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 11:50 GMT
Football League target agent fees
By Bill Wilson
BBC News business reporter at Soccerex in Dubai

Footballer
The Football League says its motive is a desire to increase transparency
The Football League is to tighten up the way payments are made to players' agents in transfer deals, in an effort to bring more transparency to the game.

The League already obliges its member clubs in the Championship and Leagues One and Two to produce a list every six months of payments to agents.

Now it is to consult clubs on ending "dual payments" to agents in transfers.

It will ask its 72 members whether they want to ban payments to agents by clubs, leaving only the player to pay.

"I am not anti-agent but am concerned about issues of conflict of interest, reputational cost, obscurity, and transparency," Football League chairman Lord Brian Mawhinney said at the Soccerex football finance seminar in Dubai.

"This is not an issue that is going to go away."

He said he had written to the Football Association, the game's governing body in England, asking them to bring the issue forward for discussion, but that it had been removed from the agenda after an FA board meeting.

And the Professional Footballers Association, which represents the players, said that it would be in favour of such a move, which it said would be in accord with FIFA rules.

"There is a danger when you have a system where the agent works for both the employer and the employee that it could be open to abuse," Mick McGuire, the PFA Deputy Chief Executive, told the BBC.

Disadvantage

Lord Mawhinney said he felt the reason top-flight Premiership clubs in England may not be keen to do away with the dual payment system was they needed the help of agents to compete against continental rivals to secure the top available players.

Lord Mawhinney
It may well be that they do not want to pay agents at all, and it becomes the responsibility of the players
Lord Mawhinney, Football League chairman

"I understand the Premier League's argument; 'not only do we compete as Premier League clubs but we also compete in Europe... we in England could end up at a disadvantage against our commercial rivals'."

Lord Mawhinney said he would discuss the issue with clubs in early December, asking them for their opinions on agent payments.

"We will see what sort of appetite they have - and it may well be that they do not want to pay agents at all, and it becomes the responsibility of the players," he said.

"On the other hand they may decide that they only want to pay agents in certain circumstances."

Lord Mawhinney said clubs may decide to only continue with dual payments in the case of buying players from overseas, and not for deals within the UK.

But he emphasised that the chances of some sort of change in the Football League's dealings with agents were "fairly high".

Cap

Lord Mawhinney said he had been approached by an agent on behalf of a group of his colleagues, who were not unsympathetic to what the Football League was trying to do.

Meanwhile, he also said that at some stage the league would suggest to its Coca Cola Championship clubs that they should set a cap on the percentage of income they spend on player wages.

A couple of years ago League One and Two clubs voted to restrict overall player salaries to 60% of income.

"We are going to float the idea about how to bring an element of this in to the Championship. I am not talking about a salary cap, which would be illegal.

"You could have one or two highly paid players and the rest are below the average."

He continued: "People often talk about clubs being successful - but they also have to be sustainable, and since League One and Two clubs voted for this most of them have seen a stability in their finances."

He said if Coca Cola clubs did vote on a wages structure then the percentage may be higher than 60%, as those clubs "always have an eye on the possibility of getting into the Premier League".

'Major problem'

"It is entirely laudable that the Football League is trying to do this," said Dr Rogan Taylor of the Football Industry Group at University of Liverpool.

"Transparency has to be everything here. It is ridiculous that people - the agents - can butter both sides of their bread on a transfer deal," he said.

Dr Taylor sais such practices were a major disincentive for investment.

"I think that this type of process is a major problem for football and why a lot of people who might get involved in the game don't get involved.

"They say they don't like the way the business is conducted and go somewhere else with their investment or sponsorship."

Maybe it is time for the government to wield a big stick to spur them (football authorities) on
Dr Rogan Taylor, Football Industry Group

And he warned that if the football authorities were unable to regulate agents sufficiently it might be up to governments to get involved.

"Football would hate to see that - so maybe it is time for the government to wield a big stick to spur them on."


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