Underhand Tactics: Football Business

A film by Martin Boudot
Broadcast in September 2013

Worldwide, most popular football is an annual 400 billion euro industry. The “mercato” trades multi-million euro footballers’ transfers between famous clubs. But within these overhyped sports news, much more discreet people play a decisive and very lucrative role: footballers’ agents.

This investigation reveals the hidden mechanisms of this huge market. The role of these influent agents. As well as the power of investment funds. Problematic practices that are the ugly face of the “beautiful game”.

Like the merchandising of players from an early age. Kids like 12-year-old Madin – who already has an agent and sponsor – are turned into commodities to be packaged and traded. Very young, they already generate juicy benefits for prestigious clubs. When “mature”, they are at the heart of a highly speculative market, often involving tax havens and where corruption is widespread. Complex financial structuring aimed at blurring to whom players belong.

This investigation sheds light on FIFA’s (as well as other football institutions like FFF and UEFA) conflicts of interests. The awarding of the 2018 and 2022 world cups to Russia and Qatar remains mired in controversy. It also shows some agents’ criminal deeds. Many of them, like Jean-Pierre Bernes, have been convicted of corruption but still have a dominant hold on football. The most popular sport might very well be killed by the multiplication of its industry’s scandals.