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The financial farce of modern day football

An in-depth review of the evolving world of football transfers, agent fees and who is accountable.

We have approached an era of fictional like finances in the world of football. Clubs, especially in England, seem to have more money than sense, but is the expenditure really maximising the quality? Or instead, is it widening a dangerous gap between the top and the bottom of the game?

Records are now broken year on year, clubs see it as necessary in order to compete, but what are many clubs competing for? A dozen games on Sky Sports every year?

The broadcasting companies have accelerated the English game in to a money-fueled peacock, with clubs spending far beyond their wildest dreams. The current TV deal split between Sky Sports and BT Sports League is worth £5.136bn to the English Premier League, meaning each game is valued at a staggering £10m. With parachute payments paid to each of the 20 clubs at the end of the season, the deal has allowed basement clubs such as Sunderland (£90m p/a) to pay more in wages than Champions League semi-finalists Atletico Madrid (£86m p/a). Startling.

So how far can this bubble grow? Is it sustainable? And where is the money better spent? All questions fiercely debated within popular sports media.

In parallel to the ever-evolving financial world of football, we can recognize a shift of power from the clubs to the players. Player power is now stronger than ever. So, if a player can sniff a wage rise at another club, he knows he will be able to get it. This now leaves clubs dwelling whether money or performance is more important, which sadly shows how distant we are from footballs original partisan values.

We have perfect examples of player power in only the last couple of weeks. Gianluigi Donarumma, an exciting prospect for AC Milan, has announced that he is not willing to extend his contract at his boyhood club, despite the offer of over £80,000 per week. The goalkeeper is only 18 and has been an established first team player for almost two years, yet he has decided against staying at the San Siro. With a year left on his contract, Milan are now deliberating whether to cash in on the wonder-kid, or run down the contract over the course of the season. You would suggest that many fans would not want a player who is not committed to the team, however Donarumma will be very difficult to replace. Is the player being badly advised?

The interesting side to the story is that the player’s agent Mino Raoila, has previous with this sort of case. Raiola represents the world most expensive player Paul Pogba, and was responsible for engineering his moves both to Juventus and back to Manchester United. Pogba left under freedom of contract in 2011 and joined the Old Lady on a free transfer. Raiola knew this was a profitable opportunity and ensured specific clauses were included within the Frenchman’s contract. Fast forward four years and by facilitating Pogba’s return back to Manchester, Raiola pocketed a hefty £23m. Moreover, that staggering figure could rise to £41m over the course of Pogba’s five year deal, per Football Leaks.

Agents now have a very manipulative role in football, whether that is playing the media like puppets or holding football clubs for ransom, the role has evolved to become very prominent yet an uncomfortable side to the game. Many agents behave in such a way that they would be better suited to Hollywood than the Hawthorns. We see in the media almost every month that a player has become ‘unsettled’ or ‘feels undervalued’, for them only to sign a new bumper deal only six weeks later.

We then have to ask that if we can pay agents millions of pounds, then why can we not develop our grassroots game across the country? Or provide better match day ticket prices for our loyal supporters?

Where do the priorities really lie? We have lost touch with the true values of the game.

Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester United captain Gary Neville tweeted in 2015 when the new TV deal was announced “I want sensible ticket pricing and grass roots football to benefit as much as possible from this deal. Who doesn't? This is a big issue!”

This is ironically one of Sky’s highest paid pundits crying out for intervention, yet two years later we have not seen any real advancement.

Facilities around the country are failing, as is youth development at the top level. The rich are getting richer and the poor are not only getting poorer, but are also priced out of playing football. A simple leisure in life that now seems unattainable in certain parts of the UK. Clubs and the FA must act now or risk playing plastic football in front of out of touch supporters.