Manchester United are within their rights to pay agents multi-million pound sums as part of transfers, FA chairman Greg Clarke has said – but the sport needs a debate about the issue.
Fifa boss Gianni Infantino has called for more transparency around transfers.
World football’s governing body is looking into Paul Pogba’s world-record transfer from Juventus to Manchester United.
It follows claims that Pogba’s agent will earn £41m from the deal.
“If that’s what they’re [Manchester United] going to pay, that’s what they’re going to pay,” Clarke told BBC Sport.
“They are accountable to their owners; they’re accountable to their fans.
“How much should we pay for players? How much should go to agents as a commercial transaction?
“If football wants to change that and limit the amount of money that agents get we’re going to have to sit down as a game, led by the professional game, the Premier League and the EFL and the clubs and talk about that.
“I just think picking on one transfer and demonising it is not that helpful. Knee-jerk reactions don’t often yield good outcomes. What we want is some thought about how much money stays in the game so it can be invested in long-term productive things.”
- Man Utd signing of Pogba subject of Fifa inquiry
- 5 live: Pat Nevin on the dark side of football agents
The money reportedly earnt by Pogba’s agent this week prompted Accrington Stanley chairman Andy Holt to criticise Premier League clubs over the amount of money they spend, saying they were “destroying the game”.
In an interview with BBC Sport, he added that their actions filter down to adversely affect clubs in the Football League, which he said was “like a starving peasant begging for scraps”.
The Premier League responded to his comments, saying: “We will be writing to Mr Holt to ask him if he wishes the Premier League to continue the support we currently provide for his and other clubs in the EFL.”
‘Fifa has to look at transfer regulations’
Fifa has written to the Premier League club “to seek clarification on the deal” that took Pogba from Juventus to Manchester United in August 2016.
It is believed its inquiries centre on who was involved in the £89.3m transfer, and how much money was paid to them.
A book published in Germany this week – The Football Leaks: The Dirty Business of Football – and reproduced in media reports includes what it claims is a breakdown of the Pogba fee and alleges his agent Mino Raiola earned £41m from the deal.
When contacted by the BBC, Raiola declined to comment and said the matter was in the hands of his lawyers.
Addressing the Fifa congress in Bahrain on Thursday, Infantino said: “We have to look at transfer regulations, and everything that has to do with transfers, and increase transparency there as well – to discuss it with the players and with the clubs, to see how we can make all these transactions better.
“In the transfer window there is $ 3bn circulating around the world. It’s a lot of money and we have to be transparent about these things.”
‘If they know you’re not corruptible, you’ll never get a player from them again’
Former Scotland international Pat Nevin appeared on BBC Radio 5 live sport on Wednesday and related an experience of his own from the time he was Motherwell chief executive to highlight the difficulties clubs can face with player agents.
“I was in a situation when I was chief executive at Motherwell and an agent came in and he was trying to give us a player, I think it was from Nigeria,” said Nevin.
“I gave him the figure of what we were willing to pay for him – x per week, say £1,000 – and he said ‘yeah, that plus my money will be whatever’.
“I told him we wouldn’t pay him that – his player can pay it him. He ended up saying that if we gave [the player] £500 and him £500 then it is the same, £1,000. And I was thinking ‘I hope you’re never my agent’.
“He was immediately happy trashing the player and I’m thinking ‘you absolute slimeball’.
“They don’t say it in so many words but they give you a wink, a nod and a smile and if they know immediately you are not corruptible in that situation, you never hear from them again and you’ll never get a player from them again.”
Is third-party ownership still a problem?
One area of concern about transfers is the concept of third-party ownership (TPO) – when investors effectively own a share of a player.
It has been alleged Fifa’s interest in the Pogba transfer could be related to this issue – although that is vehemently denied by Raiola.
Fifa banned TPO in 2015, saying it had “harmful effects” on the sport, but some agents are thought to have found ways to bypass the regulations.
These include buying shares in a club, and then taking a cut of any transfer fee that is subsequently received by the club for their player.
Sam Allardyce lost his job as England manager last year when newspaper allegations surfaced which claimed he had offered advice on how to get around TPO rules.
The Football Leaks: The Dirty Business of Football has highlighted other transfer deals which it has been claimed indicate potential TPO.
One example is Roberto Firmino’s move to Liverpool from Hoffenheim in 2015 which, it is alleged, saw the German club receive just £5.8m of a £29m transfer.