Recession grips football

Football agents facing a cold January

January 29, 2010
By Harry Harris, Football Correspondent

Football agents have been hit with their own kind of recession.

David James
GettyImagesJames: Stoke only wish to pay him until May for his loan from Portsmouth
Clubs' lack of willingness and ability to splash out on players might be seen as a barometer that the entire game is suffering financially but that would seem to be a contradiction of the fact that TV revenues are at record highs, and the Premier League about to inform clubs they can expect an extra £5m each from yet another record return in overseas sales.

Yet, as Soccernet has discovered, insiders have spoken of how a number of clubs have sold off their TV incomes for years in advance while many have already sold off advanced season tickets in securitisation deals. The game is awash with details of enormous payments to agents for cuts of transfer fees, and renegotiating players contracts, but there is only a handful of days left before this window of opportunity closes and the middle men have never had it so bad.

Athole Still is one agent prepared to confess to the downturn in big money transfers. Still, agent to Sven Goran Eriksson, tells Soccernet: "It's not just me, but I've spoken to numerous agents in the past few days, and they all say the same - there is no money around to invest in transfers.

"Everything, apart from a few deals, seems to be loans. At this stage last season there had been £80m worth of business in the Premier League alone, but now it's around £5m. It is shocking to discover the number of clubs who are insisting they just do not have the money to spend on players.

"When you look around and see the number of clubs now owning up to huge amounts of debt, you can see why they are so reluctant. Instead of wanting to improve their squads, they are intent on cutting their wage bills by off loading them, and this is leading to a higher number of loan deals than usual."

Agents expect a late flurry of activity in the final few days as clubs save themselves a month's wages by recruiting at the end of January.

Financial prudence has even led Stoke City to try to loan Portsmouth's David James by paying him only until the end of the season in May, and not the end of his contract in June.

Even the supposedly richest and most attractive of names are in heavy-duty debt with Manchester United fearing the worst about the Glazers' debt mountain, and Liverpool supporters wondering whether their American owners can find new finance and whether the meltdown predicted if they fail to qualify for next seasons Champions League becomes reality.

With Crystal Palace crashing into administration, Notts County fending off a winding-up order from the Inland Revenue, and Portsmouth threatening to become the first Premier League club to go bust, the economic crisis is there for all to see for themselves, and it makes it tougher for English football to continually argue against Michel Platini's demands for far tougher financial regulations.