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The dark side of high-dollar transfers in global soccer

Feb 1, 2013, 10:45 AM EDT

David Sullivan

A man in position to know has pulled back the curtain on some outrageous and unpleasant stuff that unfolds around the transfer window.

West Ham United co-owner David Sullivan wrote a personal account for the Daily Mail in England. And is this thing powerful.

Sullivan says he was threatened personally, and that one of his players was also threatened by an agent who felt sidelined on a deal. He predicts more than threats in the future, warning of the very real possibility than actual violence will infect the process unless tighter regulations are imposed.

And the greed! Agents who once asked for $100,000 for their part in a lucrative transfer now demand north of $1 million for their role, he said.

It really is must-read stuff. Among the text:

It was all deeply unpleasant and I’m glad it’s over. Now we can get on with the football. Harry Redknapp was right: it feels like gang warfare out there and I can see it spilling over into violence in the future, unless there is legislation from the FA to curb the practices.

“People do desperate things when they are desperate. We read of people robbing betting shops or post offices with sawn-off shotguns for £5,000. We are talking millions of pounds here around a transfer and not enough deals to go around. There are too many agents and not enough transfers to feed them.”

  1. wesbadia - Feb 1, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Suppose violence does occur. And a reasonable line from that violence is drawn straight to the agents involved in the transfers. What kind of business model is that for an agent? Surely if that were to happen, not only would that specific individual NOT be in business anymore (and be locked up), but my bet would be that public opinion of the subject would be swayed so much against professional agents and the business that it could invoke a revolution in how player acquisitions are managed on the players’ ends.

    But let’s face it — the odds of violence happening over this type of thing is far from likely. I don’t see how any credible agent (especially higher profile ones) would risk their reputation like that.

    • Steve Davis - Feb 1, 2013 at 12:34 PM

      I hear you … But I think what happens is that “sub-agents” and other intermediaries get involved. Some don’t necessarily represent larger, more reputable firms.
      Also, some of the players involved might be coming from less lawful places. So …

      • wesbadia - Feb 1, 2013 at 1:13 PM

        So what kind of steps should be proposed by the FA? Not dealing with certain agents? And if that’s the case, surely it could have an unintended consequence of provoking actual violence… provided those disreputable firms would actually go to such lengths.

        Perhaps teams being more vigilant about what kinds of groups they get caught up with prior to actually getting caught up with them. If this is a problem with a certain group from a certain region of the world, then taking steps towards profiling those areas might need to be taken for the safety of all involved.

        Not arguing for or against such policies by the FA, just playing Devil’s Advocate…

      • Steve Davis - Feb 1, 2013 at 3:12 PM

        This is certainly not an easy one. This is where I’m glad I just report and comment on this stuff. Sometimes you just help raise awareness and then leave the “figuring it out” to smarter fellows than meself.

    • randomhookup - Feb 1, 2013 at 1:23 PM

      When there is a ton of money involved, such violence comes in the form of “an accident.”

      • wesbadia - Feb 1, 2013 at 1:51 PM

        That’s pure conjecture. Sure, we can employ the mafia stereotype, but to suggest that the agents involved would engage in that is unfounded… until it actually happens.

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