Published: Monday, 05 April 2021

Thank you for your responses to last weeks blog re-Qatar 2022. Of course, there was the usual bigoted nonsense, but along with that, a great deal of constructive debate. That’s all that anyone here asks for. Keep an open mind, while the planning continues a-pace and Qatar gets ready to deliver the best World Cup of all time. One last thing on the subject - although I don’t agree with a lot of Amnesty Internationals criticisms, figures and conclusions, I accept that they are well intended, it is worth pointing out again that they haven’t called for the competition to be moved. That’s a fact that gets lost in all the noise.

Here’s one that I believe we can all agree on. And this slipped out almost un-noticed because of the fuss surrounding Qatar - how on earth did PL clubs’ manage to spend £272m on agents’ fees during the last Covid ruined 12 months? No. You didn’t mis-read that. And I didn’t mis-type it. £272m. How? Why? And when will this madness stop? I’ll say it again - £272m. And that’s about £10m more than the previous season.

Chelsea were the highest spenders with £35,847,222. City spent £30,174,615. United slightly less: £29,801,555. Again - how? Why? There isn’t a footballer on the plant wouldn’t walk to Stamford Bridge, The Etihad or Old Trafford to play for those clubs. And if there is - then I wouldn’t want him if I was Lampard (who was in charge), Guardiola or Solskjaer. It’s obscene, especially when so many of our clubs are screaming ‘foul’ because they’re in such a financial mess. Believe me, it’s only going to get worse because the bubble has burst. There won’t be the massive tv money to rely on going forward.

So why does this keep happening? Surely it’s not beyond the wit of those that run the game to put a stop to it? It’s rumoured that just to join a conversation about Erling Haaland, his agent, Mino Riola, wants a personal guarantee of £30m on the table. That’s just to talk. It was the same when he moved Pogba to Old Trafford. It’s madness. 

Obviously, it’s in his interests to keep moving players. That’s not right either. And do we think that United have had anywhere near approaching value for money as far as Pogba is concerned? Forget the £90m fee - I’d say they would’ve overspent if they’d stopped at Riola’s cut. It’s a joke.

So why is it that somebody, somewhere doesn’t put a stop to this nonsense? Perhaps the answer lies in the story I was once told by a big club Chief Executive.

He took a job in football having enjoyed a very successful time in corporate business, which can also be a murky world, but he told me he was amazed by the things he saw in football. He said he quickly realised that at some point he was going to end up spending some time at Her Majesty’s pleasure. ‘If I’m going to prison I’d like to know why’ he told me. Obviously that line was delivered with some humour and irony, but you get where he was coming from?  He decided to ask one of the game’s top officials ‘why?’. 

Before lunch he got the answer. A map of the world was taken out of a cupboard. It was as explained to him who ran what and where. He was told ‘it works, so let’s leave it alone’. Lunch followed and he went home even more baffled.

Is it really like that? I hate to believe that it might be. It’s our game. People who put their hands in their pockets - who have their pockets picked by football - deserve better.

Players at the top should wake every day and thank God for what they’ve been given. If they want an agent to take care of them - and let’s be fair, there are some very good guys out there as well, then let them pay for that service. In what other business does the employer actually pay the costs of an employees agent? It shouldn’t happen. So why does it? Why does football bleed money into the fat, bloated world of the super-agent? It really is time it was stopped.

Further down the ladder - how good is it to see a couple of clubs that had every right to feel hard done by when the curtain was drawn last season, knocking on the door of success again? Peterborough were denied a chance of getting out of League One after being replaced in the play-offs by Wycombe. That was on a points-per-game basis. Director of football, Barry Fry was furious. ‘I’ve been in the game 60 years,’ he said. ‘It’s the biggest disappointment I’ve ever had’. He added that Posh had been ‘cheated’. It was worse for Tranmere - they were relegated.

I don’t think either team was ‘cheated’. There wasn’t a perfect solution, but I felt for both clubs when the season ended early. I like Barry and my long term mate Mark Palios owns Tranmere.

As I write Posh are in the automatic promotion places. Tranmere slipped out of the top 3 in League Two this weekend, but they’re on the fringe. I don’t wish any team chasing harm, but I really do hope that Posh and Tranny get up. They deserve it after last season’s frustrations. Keep an eye on them.