Football League spending on agents falls 2%
The football agent 'gravy train' may be on the verge of hitting the buffers as the attitudes of Football League chairmen harden towards their profession.
A report published by the League today confirmed fees paid to agents by clubs in the Coca-Cola Championship, League One and League Two fell by 2% in the 12 months up to June 30 this year.
In total £7,660,028 was spent by the 72 clubs, a drop of £160,000 on the previous year, with 16 outfits claiming to have paid not a penny to players` representatives over the period in question.
There is scepticism among some chairmen about the way in which agents' fees are recorded by certain clubs, with allegations that clubs sometimes choose to add the agent's cut to the transfer fee, rather than admit they hand over money to them directly.
But regardless of those claims, it seems football is no longer the agent free-for-all it was once assumed to be.
Out of all last season`s Championship clubs still in the division, Plymouth paid the least to agents, £79,075, and the attitude of chief executive Michael Dunford sums up the feeling among many in the lower leagues.
He said: 'There is a realisation on the part of agents, players and clubs that perhaps the gravy train is finished and the agents are having to work harder for their money.
'It`s got to be a good thing for football. Agents' money is going out of the game and the more money we can keep in the better.
'There won`t come a point in the foreseeable future where we`re not dealing with agents, but generally there is a tightening of the purse strings where agents are concerned. They are having to work harder for it.
'They are part of everyday life now, but we try to ensure we are getting good value for money, aren't being ripped off and that they provide the service they suggest they are going to provide.'
Dunford has a stark warning for agents about their future role with clubs outside the Premiership.
He claimed: 'With new regulations coming in to make players pay their own agency fees I would see fees dropping even further.'
One of the clubs to have declared no payments were League One Scunthorpe, whose general manager Jamie Hammond takes an even dimmer view of the industry's pariahs.
He explained: 'We try not to spend money on agents wherever possible because it is a case of why spend money when you don`t have to?
'A lot of clubs still spend a lot of money on agents but why should we need a middle-man to speak to our own players?
'We`re all adults, we deal with each other on a daily basis, if we need to talk we will talk directly.
'If a player wants an agent then that`s fine, but we won`t pay for it. Agents have got a living to earn and they do what they have to do, but we're simply looking after our own interests.'
It seems that football`s moral guardians are still some way off being able to declare victory over the agents, however, and few, if any, seem ready to change careers quite yet.
As Willie MacKay, who numbers Pascal Chimbonda and Jason Roberts among his clients, declared confidently: 'If you've got the right player, within reason the club are still willing to pay the right fee.
'Nothing has changed as far I`m concerned. It`s business as usual.'