NEUCHATEL: Europe’s professional clubs spend a staggering €400m a year on agents according to a study by the Swiss-based CIES Football Observatory writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

As UEFA and its president Michel Platini prepares to bring the full weight of Financial Fair Play to beat on the top-level European game the European federation might usefully investigate ways of controlling the enormous drain on the game’s finances apparent from this survey.

That might not be as difficult as it appears since the study also reveals that half of the players in the leagues of the so-called Big Five – England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – are represented by ‘only’ 83 agents or representatives.

Various methods of regulating agents have been tried in vain down the years. FIFA had a registration system but this fell into disrepute when it lawyers and accountants became involved in player representation and transfer work and claimed their own professional competence.

Study authors Raffaele Poli and Giambattista Rossi, focusing on licensed agents active in the Big Five, found that the average age is 42 and that only 3.4pc are women. Almost 75pc hold a university degree, and 71pc speak a foreign language. Only 41pc undertake the work full-time. As noted, the  majority operate in other sectors such as the law and finance.

The study also shows that a minority of agents (46%) support their clients in personal care activities such as finding a house or flat, organize travel, helping family members, etc. This result shows that the general view of agents “baby-sitting” their protégés does not correspond with reality. The former are above all busy in “spinning webs” and brokering deals.

Only 42pc of represented players are senior professionals, demonstrating that most agents are mainly active in the search for young talent, in the hope of making money in the future.

Sporting directors are clearly indicated as the most important business partners when placing players, followed by football managers. Almost 40pc of agents have already represented at least one coach since starting their career. The study is prompted, by the fact that most  agents act for both players and managers, to flag up the danger of a conflict of interest.