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'I don't think there's a row': Baxter disputes fight with agents

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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Former England out-half Andy Goode believes the latest row between Premiership clubs and agents needs resolving as soon as possible for the good of the game in England, but Exeter boss Rob Baxter doesn’t agree that the dispute is as serious as it has been made out to be. According to Goode’s latest column on RugbyPass, the Gallagher Premiership clubs are claiming there is a conflict of interest in the current system where they pay agents’ fees, with the players having 50% of them put on their P11D as a benefit in kind.

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They have now proposed that there should be a prohibition on the payment of agents’ fees by clubs, but the agents say clubs are using a HMRC ruling in football, which isn’t particularly relevant as transfer fees are barely ever involved in rugby, to sideline them and that it will lead to a well-regulated industry becoming like the wild west.

However, the long-serving Baxter, who has been involved in the Exeter journey from the national leagues to trophy wins in England and Europe, believes it will be just a new way of doing business and that the dispute will be soon forgotten about. “I don’t think there is a row necessarily,” he insisted at his media briefing ahead of this Saturday’s Premiership clash at home to Worcester. 

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“It’s probably been the next step (for a while). I’d like to think I have a pretty good relationship with most agents we deal with and I have spoken to them in the past and, if I am honest, I am surprised it has taken this long. People might be surprised as well, but this isn’t necessarily something that has never happened before. 

“I have dealt with agents on numerous occasions and said, ‘Look, I’ll tell you where we are and what we can offer. It’s a package of this much and I’ll leave it for you to split up whether you want it in accommodation costs, whether you want it in flights, how much agents’ fees you use, that is how much I can put to this player, that is how much I am prepared to put down and I’ll let you decide it’. 

“We have done deals like that in the past when there was no issue now like there is with agents. That is very much how most deals will get done now and in the future. There might be a little bit of an ongoing situation through the agents with PRL saying why make the change, but I don’t think it has become an unworkable situation where there needs to be any unnecessary fallout. It’s just one of those scenarios. 

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“It probably makes it a little harder for the agents in some ways because now they may now have to actually chase their individual client which may be a large number of players within their agency group compared to chasing 13 clubs for their agency payments. I can understand why things might change for them but on the whole, how you do the business won’t change all that much from my perspective as a club.”

Baxter added that wasn’t worried by agents potentially refusing to do business with Exeter because of the changes. “That is entirely up to the behaviour of an agent. If the agent wants to say. ‘I am not prepared to work with a club if you don’t pay me directly’, that is for the agent and the player to decide. That is why the responsibility should always be between the player and the agent and they decide that decision together. 

“If I was a player I’d sit down and say to the agent, ‘This is how I want things to be done’. If an agent is looking abroad that should be based on the players asking for that. A decent agent would be doing that anyway. You have just got to try and not get too carried away with the ins and out of it and on the whole, personally, it will just be a new way of us doing things and we will all just be getting on with it.”

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'I don't think there's a row': Baxter disputes fight with agents

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