In March 2022, the Football Association released figures of the payments made to intermediaries and agents in the preceding 12 months.
£273m was paid out by Premier League clubs and £44m by EFL Championship clubs.
Over the past 8 weeks Premiership and Championship clubs have been going through the process of advising their young academy players whether they are to be offered scholarship and professional contracts. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of young players will not be offered anything and will be released. Some of these young players will have been at their clubs from a very young age.
I have been involved in professional football for a long time now and everyone involved knows that the primary job of youth academy staff at clubs is to develop players for the first team squad. That is how they are judged pure and simple. They simply do not have the resources to look after all the players that are released. Despite this, football’s governing bodies continue to assert that their clubs have very robust processes to ensure they look after released players.
That is not the view of many parents whose boys are released. Naturally there is a protective element in all parents, and it is easy just to challenge the decisions made by criticising the decision makers at clubs. The reality is though that many parents are adamant that any contact post release that they have from clubs is a simple box ticking exercise and there is no practical help for those released.
Many youngsters suffer varying degrees of mental health problems, and some don’t appreciate they are suffering until later in life and there have sadly been some cases of suicide. I have long argued there should be an advisory service independent of clubs that players can be referred to. If you go back to the agency fees paid out in the Premier League of some £317m in the last 12 months, then a 1% levy on payments to agents would generate £3.17m to operate a very wide-ranging support service for those released by clubs.
The game has a moral duty to do this and owes this to the vast number of young players who are released from clubs and the Premier League, the EFL and the Football Association have the power to make this happen. Let’s hope they use it!