Rotherham spending validated but Blackburn’s ‘did not work’

Blackburn Rovers' Jordan Rhodes cost 8m from Huddersfield Town.
Blackburn Rovers' Jordan Rhodes cost 8m from Huddersfield Town.
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In a week that began with Premier League clubs spending £140m in one day, figures released yesterday gave further evidence of how football continues to defy the economic downturn.

Between them last season, the 72 clubs in the Football League spent £21.5m on agents’ fees, according to a League report.

It is a figure that is £170,000 down on last year, but one that shows how much money continues to leak out of the game.

Championship clubs accounted for £18.6m of the total, with League One and League Two clubs spending £2.2m and £700,000 respectively.

Clubs committed to pay agents in 776 of the 3,746 player transactions that took place.

The biggest spenders in Yorkshire were Leeds United, who paid £1,283,234 to agents.

Leeds declined to comment yesterday, but Gary Cooper of the Leeds United Supporters’ Trust said: “It’s an awful lot of money.

“When you think that the club’s annual income is around the £30m mark, I’m astonished that £1.25m is going straight to agents.

“I appreciate that they’re part of the game and a lot of players use them, but the question you have to ask is whether £1.25m on agents represents good value for money considering what the club spent on actual transfer fees.

“It’s no secret that Leeds over the last couple of years were a club who needed investment and it doesn’t help the situation when agents are making that sort of money.”

The lowest spenders in the White Rose county were York City (£11,500), which is understandable given it was their first season back in the Football League and their budget was dwarfed by many League Two rivals, one of which is Rotherham United, who by committing £106,383 to agents, were the highest spenders in the division.

Rotherham chairman Tony Stewart was unavailable for comment, but his club’s outlay is tempered by the fact that the Millers won promotion last season.

York try to avoid making payments to agents where they can, preferring to deal directly with the player.

Club director Sophie Hicks said: “Our position is quite simple; agents are part of the game and there is a contractual obligation between a player and their nominated agent.

“As we are operating in the lower tier of the Football League the players’ salaries are a lot more reasonable and we do not feel as a football club it is correct for players to pay agents fees, therefore as a football club we agree to pay reasonable costs.

“However, as in any business situation it is important to negotiate and get the best deal for York City Football Club.”

York were one of 24 clubs to spend less than £25,000 while seven clubs did not spend any money on agents’ fees (Blackpool, Hartlepool United, Accrington Stanley, AFC Wimbledon, Morecambe, Barnet and Crewe Alexandra).

The club that spent most lavishly on the middle men in contract and transfer negotiations were Blackburn Rovers.

The team relegated from the Premier League spent more than £3.5m on agents’ fees last season despite only just avoiding relegation to the third tier.

That figure amounts to almost a fifth (19.1 per cent) of all spending on agents’ fees in the entire League.

The sum has risen to such a considerable figure because the club signed a number of big names last season including Jordan Rhodes, from Huddersfield Town, for whom they paid £8m at the end of last summer’s transfer window.

Other sizeable sums went to agents for the signatures of long-time Premier League player Danny Murphy and former Portuguese international Nuno Gomes.

Blackburn managing director Derek Shaw admitted the big-spending approach of last summer did not work.

He said: “After suffering relegation from the Premier League, there was an influx of new signings, including a number of ‘high-profile’ players on lucrative contracts, in the hope that we would make an immediate return to the top flight.

“Regrettably, those moves didn’t work out, both in terms of results on the pitch and from a financial point of view, which is something we have worked hard to put right this summer.

“Since Gary Bowyer’s appointment as manager in May, he has adopted a very different transfer policy, bringing in a number of hungry young players on manageable Championship contracts, and if recent results are anything to go by, the early signs are very encouraging.”

Two of the three teams who won promotion last season – Crystal Palace and Cardiff – spent over a million pounds on agents.

Hull City, who clinched promotion after putting up £16m to achieve their target, spent £929,535 on agents.

Overall spending on agents by Championship clubs rose by £521,125. Encouragingly, from a purist’s point of view, the only club in the League to spend nothing on agents was Blackpool, who currently lead the Championship.

League One spending rose by £298,183 to £2,229,019. Promoted Bournemouth spent the most (£688,666) while Doncaster Rovers and Sheffield United committed around £80,000 each.

There was a big drop of £362,161 spent on agents in League Two.

The Football League have been revealing agents’ fees for the last 10 seasons during which the total outlay has risen steadily.

The 2013-14 season is the first year in which the Football League rules on Financial Fair Play come into effect.

Football League chairman Greg Clarke hopes clubs are spending what they can afford on agents.

“Again, this is a considerable amount of money to be leaving the game,” he said. “The real challenge is to ensure that such payments are part of a sustainable financial model with clubs only spending what they can afford.

“In conjunction with clubs, we’re making real progress towards this goal and now have all three divisions operating Financial Fair Play regulations.”