Gulf riches are trump card for UK football agents

Rumours of big-money offers from GCC clubs seen as key ploy in contract negotiations
Qatar has been repeatedly linked to a reported $2.4bn bid for English champions Manchester United
By Shane McGinley
Sun 30 Oct 2011 09:23 AM

Football agents in the UK are allegedly inventing multimillion-dollar offers from Gulf-backed clubs in a bid to raise their player’s stock during contract negotiations, industry insiders said.

The practice of planting newspaper stories that claim players are being courted by petrodollar-rich football clubs has become a key ploy during transfer talks and contract renewals, said Ryan

McKnight, editor of F.C. Business, a trade magazine for the UK football industry.

“Without doubt I am confident that it can and does happen because why wouldn’t you do that in the best interest of your clients?” McKnight told Arabian Business.

“Agents are very clever and it is almost like a benchmarking process for them now. They want to know what is the most their client can earn and the Middle East offers that kind of gravity.”

GCC-based investors have made their mark on European football in recent years, bringing fresh money into the sport. Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan bought English soccer’s Manchester City in 2008, and is rumoured to have spent some $1bn on the takeover, new players and salaries.

UAE-based Royal Emirates bought out La Liga side Getafe in a $120m deal in April, and pledged to invest up to $130m in the team over a five-year period.

In July, Qatari investors bought a 70 percent stake in French Ligue 1 football club Paris St Germain for a reported €30m-40m ($42.7m-$57m). PSG then spent €80m on new players.

But the Gulf’s deep coffers has put the region at the centre of a string of unsubstantiated stories of player transfers and club buyouts.

Diego Maradona, coach for UAE-based Al Wasl, was forced to deny making an offer for Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez, after media reports claimed a multimillion-dollar transfer deal was on the table.

Tevez would “cost a lot of money and right now we have a budget for around five percent of the fee he commands,” the Argentine coach said.

Fabio Capello was this month the subject of media reports that claimed the England Manager had been offered $50m by wealthy Gulf state Qatar to set up a professional league in the country.

Qatar, which has been repeatedly linked to a reported $2.4bn bid for English champions Manchester United, denied the offer.

Capello’s contract is due for renewal in 2012.

“It is ongoing publicity for the client,” said Gareth Mordey, former Sunderland AFC player and general manager of the Dubai’s E-Sports football academies.

“Likewise, there is a flipside as it doesn’t do Qatar bad either being linked to an England manager with that amount of money. It keeps your stock high - keeps your client on the back page with massive headline figures.”

The trend is likely to increase amid FIFA moves to relax licensing rules for football agents. Agents, who conduct transfer deals and advise players on issues such as sponsorship and image rights deals, are paid a percentage of a player’s total contract, typically between 5-10 percent. Under new FIFA rules, the profession may be deregulated – a response to the fact that up to

70% of international transfers are concluded by non-licensed agents.

 “It is a problem as the regulations for what agents can and can’t do is up for review at the moment and FIFA is looking likely to end the need for agents to be licensed,” McKnight said.

“The argument is that any ethical processes agents are currently forced into will disappear and things like this, where they are trying to drum up real or fantasy interest, is something that is going to increase.

“You have to remember the role of the agent is to get the best deal for their player or client and the morality of what they are doing, I think, often comes a distant second,” he added.

The next round of player transfers in the UK is due to start in January.

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