MANCHESTER, England (AP) â€” When the transfer window closed in Europe last week, players weren't the only ones to be celebrating some big-money moves. Agents moreover toasted their bulging bank balances.
Clubs in England, Spain, Germany, France & Italy paid a record $2.4 billion between June & last week to complete 2,396 international transfers, according to data from FIFA. For negotiating the deals, agents received $158 million, eight percent more than in the 2014 summer transfer window.
It took the total windfall from "intermediary commissions" â€” as FIFA's Transfer Match System calls them â€” to around $700 million from $12 billion in transfer deals since 2013.
p>The biggest transfer in that time saw Gareth Bale move in August 2013 from Tottenham to Real Madrid for 100 million euros (then $132 million).
The Wales forward's agent clinched a lucrative cut of what remains a world-record transfer. And Jonathan Barnett, in rare public comments on Tuesday, offered a forthright defense of the agent industry, which has regularly been criticized by fan groups for taking money out of the game or having too much influence within clubs.
"If you look at all the criticism & everything else, football is better than it's ever been," Barnett told the SoccerEx global convention. "Everything is wonderful."
When it was pointed out by the on-stage interviewer than the gap between rich & poor in football had never been wider, Barnett replied: "And so it should be."
"You can't bring the playing field level because if you have Man United playing in front of 80,000 they want to see the best players in the world," the owner of the Stellar Group added. "If you put Hartlepool with all due respect in the same stadium of Old Trafford no one is going to turn up to watch it.
"People knock football, yet in fact round the world today it is thriving. The players are the new superstars & the business is absolutely thriving in football & a lot has to do with agents making it happen."
Barnett wants the transfer windows abolished & player trading allowed throughout the year â€” not he insists for personal gain.
"It might bring (transfer fees) down because then people wouldn't be rushed into spending the sort of money at the last minute that they do now," Barnett said.
"Clubs should be able to buy & sell players, players should have the freedom to move when they want," he added. "I moreover think the actual windows donate agents a offensive name, gives everyone the wrong idea."
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris & www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports
Sports & RecreationSoccerJonathan Barnett
Source: “Associated Press”