Mansford: Players looking at security over cash

Barnsley chief executive Ben Mansford
Barnsley chief executive Ben Mansford
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ONCE a prominent agent and now a club chief executive, Ben Mansford has been on both sides of the fence in terms of player transactions.

A poacher turned gamekeeper, some might suggest.

Equally, given those two vantage points, the Barnsley CEO’s views on the transfer window that was make for interesting reading and carry a fair amount of weight in the process.

Rightly or wrongly, the image portrayed of agents in modern-day football is of driven, domineering individuals hell-bent on wringing every last financial drop from clubs for their clients, a world where cash is king and quite often, the be-all and end-all.

At the top level, that may ring true and while Radamel Falcao may have spoken about realising a ‘dream’ of playing for Manchester United – shortly after his dream of wearing the white of Real Madrid was dashed – some would say there were 265,000 good reasons that facilitated his path to Old Trafford.

You sense the God-fearing Colombian’s representatives had a glass or two of something bubbly and ridiculously expensive in the early hours of September 2...

Away from the riches of the Premier League and those handed a soft financial landing in the Championship by way of parachute payments, a fair amount of cloth is now being cut, by both agents in their demands and clubs in their transfer outlay.

Anomalies remain, but if the recent listing of agents’ fees for 2013-14 is anything to go by when Football League clubs’ spending was down by £3.8m from £21.15m the previous year to £17.7m, realism is starting to creep in.

Mansford worked for a number of years with LA-based Wasserman Media Group and practiced as a sports solicitor at Walker Morris in Leeds before becoming the youngest chief executive in the country at 33 when he joined Barnsley in the summer of 2013.

His work at Wasserman saw him negotiate contracts in the UK and abroad for several high-profile players – he advised new England cap Fabian Delph on his transfer from Leeds United to Aston Villa for £8m in 2009.

Now he is dealing with agents on a daily basis and believes a certain amount of cost-cutting, especially among those representing lower-division clients, is prevailing.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “I think the sensible ones are doing that. The brighter agents are taking security rather than the money and encouraging their clients to deal quickly.

“For me, I think that is good, but unfortunately there are other agents who are pretty poor and who have allowed their players to get into predicaments where they are pressured financially.

“I think the Salary Cap Management Protocol is obviously a big issue in League One. Apart really from Bristol City and credit to their owner Steve Lansdown, who has backed the club similar to what our owner has, the money spent by clubs in the division is a much more level playing field.

“There is not really a case of teams blowing each other out of the water.

“Peterborough have done ever so well in their transfer business, but their model is to stick it back in and re-invest sensibly.

“I think with Wolves, Rotherham and Brentford going up, you probably lost three of the top-five budgets from last year and I think that has led to a calming.

“I think that took a while for agents and players to cotton onto and we were offered players like Guy Moussi and have managed to get Leroy Lita.”

In the Championship, the likes of Cardiff, Norwich and Fulham have utilised their parachute payments in their quest to return to the Premier League Promised Land at the first juncture.

Others such as Nottingham Forest and Middlesbrough have also loosened the purse strings, although in the immediate background for everyone is the Financial Fair Play operations that have come into force this season.

Clubs will be assessed in December, with the permitted loss in the Championship currently £8m for the 2013-14 season, or £3m if an owner does not inject equity.

Failure to comply under FFP rules could result in transfer bans or points deductions and while it has not stopped clubs recruiting busily, the emphasis for most has been smart, targeted buys, whether at home or abroad.

Mansford added: “I think that the Financial Fair Play regulations have caught up to a certain extent with the Championship unless owners are prepared to be prepared to put in some equity and be really committed to their football clubs.

“That has also been a bit of a calming influence on most clubs outside of those with parachute payments.

“Looking at the market, there is real value in Europe. But you have to be quick to identify it.

“Taking (Massimo) Cellino who has come in at Leeds, he has 20 years of experience in Europe and he is equipped to know the players there.

“Unless you are in the Premier League or a top, top Championship team at ex-Premier League level, it is very difficult to recruit there.

“There is really good value in Europe, but you must have the infrastructure to justify that.

“Looking at say Rotherham, if you are in Steve Evans’s shoes in terms of recruitment for the first year in the Championship, you probably do not want to gamble on anything that is not here at home.”