Commentary

Big money in EPL creates big opportunities for kickbacks

Former England star Alan Shearer says Sam Allardyce's dramatic exit as England national team coach has made English soccer a laughing stock.

“It's incredible and a catastrophic misjudgement by Sam and his advisers," Shearer told BBC Radio 5 Live.

As serious as it was -- Allardyce met with undercover reporters posing as businessmen representing Far East interests and explained how outlawed third-party transfers worked -- it was only a part of the Daily Telegraph's investigation into corruption in the English transfer market.

A record $1.5 billion were spent by EPL clubs during the summer transfer market. How much of that went to agents is not known, but the last season for which payments have been published is 2014-15 when more than $168 million were paid by EPL clubs to agents for their work on transfer deals.

Soccer agents in the EPL don't work like agents in American sports, where they are paid a fee by their clients -- the player -- based on his salary and endorsements and other income. EPL clubs pay agents for their work on transfers, so agents have an incentive to pump up the valuations of players being transferred and offer kickbacks to unscrupulous managers willing to jack up the prices their owners are shelling out for transfers.

Assistant managers and youth coaches who are on the eye out for talent are targets of agents in need of insider tips on young players to snare as clients with the hope that they can yield big transfer fees -- and agent fees -- down the road.

Three agents told Daily Telegraph's reporters about eight current or recent Premier League managers who they said were known for taking bribes -- five of whom they said they had personally paid off. Two League Championship managers were mentioned.

League Championship club Barnsley fired assistant manager Tommy Wright after Daily Telegraph tapes showed Wright taking 5,000 pounds ($6,500) from the so-called agents in return for helping their agency sign Barnsley players, find players for the firm to sign on other clubs and recommend that Barnsley sign other players represented by the agency.

Since that report, the Daily Telegraph identified Southampton assistant manager Eric Black on tape giving undercover reporters advice on how to bribe officials at other clubs and who could pass on information about players to the agency to sign up. FA rules prohibit club officials from taking money from agents for advice and are required to report any potential breach.

England is not the only country in which corruption is a problem. Indeed, it is believed to be more prevalent in other leagues. The difference is that English clubs spend more money on transfers -- and the amounts will continue to grow as they benefit from the windfall from new television deals.
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