Football: Kicking the Balance of Power; Brian Dick on What Blues' Chairman Sees as a Landmark in Industrial Relations for Players

Article excerpt

Byline: Brian Dick

Like all good union men, Gordon Taylor looks out for his members, especially when they are being criticised.

The chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association yesterday rejected suggestions that one of his more controversial comrades, Robbie Savage, had set a worrying precedent in player-power by engineering his switch to Blackburn Rovers.

The Wales international, who last night ended his transfer saga and finally made his pounds 3million move to Ewood Park, had earlier in the week been censured by Birmingham City's David Gold.

The Blues chairman had taken umbrage at how Savage had 'pleaded' for an improved contract at the start of the season, only to hand in a transfer request four months later.

Gold scolded the 30-year-old midfield player for failing to honour that agreement and said the situation could prove to be a landmark in football's industrial relations.

He had said: 'This is not just about Robbie Savage. The issue at stake is that these contracts are so one-sided. Any player who gets substituted can suddenly say he doesn't want to play for you any more.'

But Taylor was quick to reject Gold's theory and blamed the clubs for turning his members' heads by contacting players, even when they are contracted to other teams.

Taylor said: 'David Gold is a man of the world, he is a businessman and he knows the way things work.

'He has his opinion but it is not a question of player-power, the player would not be going anywhere unless he had the consent of the club.

'This type of thing goes on among all clubs and David Gold knows the way of the world. Birmingham might also have to play the same game to get a player.'

Taylor went on to describe a 'transfer merry-go-round' where clubs would use an intermediary or agent to recruit replacements if one of their own men had had his head turned.

He denied that the regulations governing contracts needed to be overhauled, emphasising the dual obligation contained in most agreements. Indeed, he said, it was to Birmingham's benefit that Savage had signed a new deal.

'The fact there is a contract in place enabled the club to ask for an amount of money that, if Robbie Savage were out of contract this summer, they would never get. By offering him and giving him that contract, they have got themselves a good deal now.'

Taylor also rejected Gold's assertion that such agreements are always weighted in the player's favour, saying: 'The other side of it is that players sign a contract with one manager and then a new manager comes in and the player is made available when he doesn't want to be.'

But Gold stood by his comments, saying: 'The reality is that, in any other walk of life, had anybody signed such a contract, it would have been binding. In this instance, it clearly is not.'

He also implied that Taylor was bound by his position to risible proportions, adding: 'Gordon Taylor is a great orator and a great negotiator but he always starts off by saying 'The sky in not blue, it's green'. It is a case of a man walking into a room and asking us if we like his clothes when he is wearing none.'

More seriously, he reiterated his fears for the sport by saying: 'I do not need to listen to someone telling me that the game has to accept people breaking contracts.

'If this happens to me again, the first thing I will be asking the player is how much he is going to pay my football club to release him. If it was the other way round, if I had wanted to get rid of him, I would have to have given him the money,' Gold said.

Even Taylor was not without a word of caution for Savage who, he implied, was taking something of a risk by moving at this stage in his career. …