Seeking Soccer Talent, Club Executives Turn to Speed Dating

That informal structure has led to waste of as much as 10 percent, Rasmus Ankersen said, which would represent as much as $700 million based on FIFA’s total figures. 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.

Club-to-club meetings on a global scale like the one held in London remain uncommon. The scarcity is related to the baked-in paranoia of the soccer world, where clubs eye rivals’ motivations with great suspicion.

“If you stick a for sale sign up, you can weaken your stance in the market,” said Dan Ashworth, director of football at Brighton, a small club that will compete in the Premier League for the third straight season.

Ashworth has recently returned to club soccer after six years with England’s national federation. His club hired a new coach, Graham Potter, at the start of the season, and that’s likely to mean more changes than usual as Brighton tries to build a squad matching Potter’s preferences. When such changes occur, players who would once have been seen as indispensable may no longer fit. Such conversations can be delicate, requiring careful handling before a player’s availability for transfer can be communicated to the market, said Ashworth.

“You are dealing with human beings, it’s not a product,” he said, sitting in the calm of a quiet corner of Stamford Bridge, during a rare lull in a full day. “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. He had another date.


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