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Grassroots football campaigner calls for levy on agents’ fees

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The government and Football Association (FA) should work together to impose a levy on agents’ fees which would trickle down into grassroots football, according to campaigner Kenny Saunders.

Saunders, the founder of the Save Grassroots Football Campaign, said the £130m ($194m, €184m) spent by Premier League clubs on agents between October 2014 and September 2015 was “an absolute disgrace”, and that 10 per cent should be shaved off to improve grassroots facilities.

The money spent dwarfs the £12m ($17.9m, €17m) the Premier League has contributed annually to grassroots football charity The Football Foundation over the past three years. Under the agreement, the FA contributes £12m, while the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) ploughs in a further £10m ($15m, €14.2m) per annum.

The proposed levy, said Saunders, would be a fair way of boosting the grassroots game as “every one of those players the agents have represented came through grassroots football”.

He said the money raised should go towards the implementation of 3G astroturf pitches around the country, which would allow “kids of play all-year round like they do in Germany and Holland”, and would benefit agents by fostering the next generation of footballer they can represent.

“A levy like that would mean that we could put £13m (US$19.4m, €18.4m) into football hubs around the country,” he told Sports Management. “That would be a start, and we can do the same again next year.”

Earlier this week, the Premier League released the figures which revealed that money spent on agents’ involvement in transfer deals had gone up by £15m (US$22.4m, €21.2m) – or 12.7 per cent – year-on-year, with a further £30.3m (US$45.3m, €42.9m) being spent in the lower leagues.

Liverpool FC topped the spending charts, with £14.3m ($21.4m, €20.2m) spent over the 12-month period, followed by Manchester United and Manchester City, who spent £13.9m ($20.8m, €19.7m) and £12.4m ($18.5m, €17.6m) respectively.

Championship clubs spent £26.1m ($39m, €36.9m), with Cardiff City FC contributing the highest amount – £2.8m (US$4.2m, €4m) – while League One and League Two clubs parted with a combined £4.2m (US$6.3m, €5.9m).

Saunders said it was “scandalous” that so much money was being spent on agents while “grassroots participation numbers have fallen, non-league clubs are folding and even Championship clubs like Bolton Wanderers FC are struggling”.

Earlier this year, the Premier League signed a broadcasting deal worth a total of £8.2bn (US$12.3bn, €11.6bn) over three seasons from 2016/17.

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The government and Football Association (FA) should work together to impose a levy on agents’ fees which would trickle down into grassroots football, according to campaigner Kenny Saunders.
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A 10 per cent levy would help improve grassroots facilities around the country, according to Saunders