Cleaning Up after These Agents Has to Be Done In-House

The Evening Standard (London, England), January 27, 2006 | Go to article overview

Cleaning Up after These Agents Has to Be Done In-House


Byline: DAVID MELLOR

THE trouble with the Premier League bung inquiry is that it points in the wrong direction.

No useful purpose is served in looking back. The same problems that overwhelmed the last bung investigation, chaired by Robert Reid which started in 1993, will derail this one; key people, especially agents, will refuse to cooperate or open their books, so little or no evidence of wrongdoing becomes available.

But that of, course, won't mean the game is clean. Nor hopefully will the Premiership claim it is, but rather this announcement, for all its flaws, can be seen as welcome evidence that they at long last understand the damage that is being done to football by the widespread belief that the industry is riddled with financial irregularities and really will try to do something serious about it.

In that event, what they must do is look forward not back, and create a totally transparent financial regime. This should be one with full details of transfer arrangements, including payments to agents publicly revealed, and one that is vigorously regulated by a properly resourced, arms-length body.

Clubs and agents should be obliged to open their books, disclose all their bank accounts, and answer any question put to them by the regulators. And the rules must be tightened to ensure compliance and to minimise the possibilities of skulduggery. And the first rule to go should be the one which permits agents to act on both sides of a deal, one which no reputable industry would tolerate.

Nothing can be achieved without cracking down hard on agents. It's these shadowy figures, many of them without any professional qualifications whatsoever, and some seemingly devoid of any ambition beyond making a fast buck, who are the root of all evil in the game. At the moment, the Football Association and the Premier League shelter behind the excuse that agents are FIFA-regulated.

And that of course is true. But FIFA are incapable of keeping football clean.

The Premier League are distressed that people challenge the game's integrity and so are faced with a simple choice. They can either continue to bow down to the knee of FIFA, making continued public mistrust inevitable, or they can set up their own tight and properly enforced rulebook.

It's unacceptable, for instance, that a foreign agent involved in a deal that encompasses a domestic club or player can claim that, as a FIFA-regulated agent, he is not accountable to the English authorities.

The Premier League's new resolve may be in line with efforts by UEFA, who are trailing a much tougher line on agents, and revealing their fear that football has become a target for money laundering criminals.

And why wouldn't it be? Drugs, prostitution, gambling and alcohol, when it was illegal in America, have all been gristed to the mill of organised crime.

Why not football, which is glamorous, awash with money, and poorly regulated so that the chances of being caught for any irregularity is near to zero?

What else could an ambitious criminal want?

ROY KEANE is apparently hesitating about having an Old Trafford-testimonial.

He's right. When players earned next to nothing it was entirely appropriate a loyal servant should have a big pay night. But now star players get several millions a year, it's a different story. A good example was set by Niall Quinn who gave all his testimonial money to charity.

That's what they all should do.

Sven, the fat lady has sung - it's time for you to exit stage left THE SONG says: "If you gotta go, go now," and I wish that had happened with Sven. As it is, he stays on with a media pack who detest him, all the more since he's made it clear he thinks his problems are due to our prurience, not his own wrongdoing.

Between now and the World Cup in Germany there are lots of elephant traps, including three friendlies. …

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