To disclose or not to disclose?

When it comes to transfer fees and Carlisle United - and, it should be said, a great many more clubs - it's generally the latter.

Is this an inevitable consequence of football's modern world and to be accepted as such - or does it fly against calls for increased "transparency" which clubs like the Blues are openly campaigning for?

One thing's for certain: it's a debate that never fades completely into the background - something that was acknowledged even as United's chief executive Nigel Clibbens left one on the media last week.

In a detailed article on the club website, Clibbens referred to Carlisle's two significant recent player sales.

"It should be noted the guaranteed element of the transfer fees reported in the media for [Aaron] Hayden and [George] Tanner are inaccurate and overstated," he said.

"I accept that speculation is the consequence of undisclosed fees. 

"Also, in terms of guaranteed cash, only a portion of what is due to be received in total has been paid up front so far, and the rest comes over a much longer period."

This was a response to widespread reports that Tanner had joined Bristol City for a deal worth about £300,000, with the Hayden amount for his move to Wrexham said to be in the £200,000-£250,000 region.

How those deals would be broken down were not set out in the media, though Clibbens was undoubtedly seeking to temper any assumed excitement at the thought the Blues would have a serious six-figure amount dropping into their account with immediate effect.

The question, then, is whether this "consequence" of speculation is worth it?

Or is it one aspect of the game that can be comfortably absorbed even by one of the host of clubs that is part of the Fair Game movement which declares a wish for football to go forward wih greater "openness and transparency at its core"?

Is it right that United's income from, for instance, the sales of Jarrad Branthwaite, Liam McCarron, Josh Galloway, Hayden and Tanner are known only via briefings, nudges, whispers and reports, rather than via full and itemised disclosure?

Or is this an entirely realistic scenario based on the fact clubs should not be required to share to the fullest extent to rivals, suitors and potential selling clubs what they may or may not have at their financial disposal?

Does a competitive business/sport indeed demand a degree of confidentiality in this respect? In the end, does it really matter?

David Holdsworth, United's director of football, pointed out that the numbers are eventually presented when accounts are filed at Companies House. These are usually in historic documents, though, by the time they hit the public domain, and it can still be difficult to unpick individual fees and add-ons.

Holdsworth, when pressed on this subject by BBC Radio Cumbria's James Phillips a couple of weekends ago, suggested he'd be happy to see transfer figures aired at the time they are finalised, because it would directly highlight the benefit of certain deals.

"I’d love to tell you how much they were because it might get me a pat on the back," he said.

"I’d be over the moon to tell everybody, because it means everybody would know how much I’ve brought into the club in all those deals, and [how] it’s made the club stable.

"Unfortunately [undisclosed fees are] the way of the world. It’s confidential, in writing and is an agreement both clubs end up coming to. I don’t know whether clubs want to reveal their private circumstances.

"There’s a couple of clubs out there who, if they informed other clubs how much money they’ve got, would maybe see another nought going on the end of something."

The real world view, surely, is that the broad truth of most transfers seeps out in the end, whether via an agent letting something slip to the media, or other in-house sources sharing information.

"I didn’t make the rules," Holdsworth added. "I used to think it was a super strength [to disclose], like when Birmingham City got the first £1m player [Trevor Francis] – brilliant, they announced it.

"It might become [more] transparent [in time], but it does when you go to Companies House at the end of the year, and when each club deals with agents."

There are no doubt other reasons why clubs prefer not to disclose. In some cases it will be as simple as a selling club not wishing to demonstrate how little they recouped for a player fans felt was worth more. The flipside - how much the buying club had to fork out in the end - may also be something felt safer behind the wall of no comment rather than opened up to everyone.

Football finance expert Kieran Maguire, speaking via Stoke on Trent Live recently, gave his perspective on the subject.

"They [fees] are undisclosed from the general public but they still have to be registered with the EFL, the Premier League and so on because there are VAT issues involved in them," he said. "The taxman will get to know those details.

"Sometimes it is undisclosed due to the player. If a player is joining a club he doesn't want to know that he's a £30m signing, and equally he doesn't want fans to know he's been signed for 10 grand because people form opinions on the price of the player rather than his actual ability. It could be that actually it's in the best interests of a player.

"The other reason is that...if you have signed three players already in the window and they are all undisclosed fees, while people have a rough idea, the rest of the market and agents will think you might have spent £20m [but] you could have spent £40m or £10m.

"The more you can hide in terms of having a poker face, the less people know about you, the stronger your position when you go to sign your next deal."

The undisclosed pandemic also seems to apply to pretty much everything down the chain, including Carlisle's purchase of Jordan Gibson from Sligo Rovers; again, this was assumed to be for a fee rather less than those agreed for the Tanner and Hayden sales, yet it could still not be stated.

So what do you think? Undisclosed fees - a necessary evil, an unnecessary evil, or not an evil at all? Let us know your views...