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LONDON — It had all the hallmarks of an afternoon of speed dating. On a gloriously warm Tuesday this week, a group of soccer executives, from clubs large and small from across Europe and even as far afield as Brazil and the United States, were getting to know each other at 15-minute intervals inside a banquet hall at Stamford Bridge, the West London home of Premier League giant Chelsea.
Outside, tourists visiting the stadium frolicked in the sunshine of the stands.
Harford spoke as he pored over a list of young players being made available for loan by Paul Konchesky, loan manager at the middling Premier League club West Ham.
Harford, a towering former striker, was in the market for players elite teams were looking to loan out — either young players needing the experience of first team soccer or older athletes who were unlikely to make the roster this season.
The savings, he said, could come with more transparency in the marketplace, with clubs more easily knowing which players are available and the needs of other teams.“There will always be a need for someone to represent the player, an agent, and who can market the player, negotiate his contract.
Where the waste in football is, is in what we call ‘club intermediaries’ — these guys that are in the middle, connecting clubs, holding the information, brokering the deals, that is in many cases an unnecessary cost,” Rasmus Ankersen said.
To be sure, this is not the place where Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi will move from one club to another, but rather where useful, reasonably priced players change teams.
They shared a mutual frustration, bordering on antipathy, for another critical cog in the wheels of the soccer market: agents.“If you can progress talks with the two clubs then you’re in a stronger position than an agent trying to broker deals, getting in this, getting that,” said Tony Coton, head of recruitment at Sunderland, a third-tier English team that was previously in the Premier League but was demoted twice.“Here I will hear it from the horse’s mouth now,” he continued, “exactly how much the player’s earning at that club and I can say, ‘Yes we can go to that,’ or ‘No we can’t go to that,’ without the agent getting involved because invariably the agent will inflate what he’s on to try and increase his wages and for a loan I don’t think that’s right.”Coton, a former goalkeeper for Manchester City, was in town like Harford to pick up a few loan players and to try to find buyers for two players from Sunderland’s Premier League days whose wages the club can no longer afford to finance.
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“So when you put a for-sale sign up for a person, that person might not know they’re for sale, might not know that you’re looking to move them on, might not agree to move away.
Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.”A short while later, the bell sounded and Ashworth jumped to his feet.