Corruption in Football - Mike Newells stirs up a storm

I read this morning the comments from Luton Town manager Mike Newell about back handers, bungs and agents roles in the game of football.

Quoted from the BBC Sports Website Newell said "a lot of people involved with the agents and doing the deals are taking back-handers"

He also said when asked if he had been offered money "Of course I have. I wouldn't even entertain the idea - never."

"If I was open to it, it would be a regular occurrence. All I would have to say is, 'What is in it for me?'."

I played professionally for 10 years and was involved in 3 transfers plus contract renegotiations twice at West Bromwich Albion and once at Charlton Athletic. I had representation a few times from agents in these dealings. Towards the end of my career I did begin to feel that agents were a little unscrupulous and possibly not needed, especially when the PFA (Players Football Association) has a wealth of knowledge and are perfectly capable of negotiating on behalf of players.

A good case in point was when I moved from Newcastle United to West Bromwich Albion. I had a meeting with Ossie Ardiles who had brought me from Newcastle to West Bromwich Albion and my agent to discuss the contract. Ossie asked for a moment alone with me so the agent left. And he told me that i did not need him. They could ony pay me XXX amount of money and no matter what the agent did or said this would not change. I insisted that the agent be there and although he tried to get me a better contract Ossie was good to his word and could not offer me anything more, regardless of the agents help.

I got the same contract regardless of the Agents contribution and ended up with a bill of several thousand pounds.

I am not anti agents because they do have a part to play in the merry-go-round of football and sports in general. Young players do need advice especially if they are unable to receive it from friends and family. It is a highly specialised form of negotiation and especially in todays era of marketing rights, I believe they have an important role.

But I bumped into many shady characters in my career, who all thought they could provide professional services on behalf of players and it is unfortunate that many players do get left with bills for work that really wasn't worth the money.

Football Clubs and Managers are under alot of pressure from the Fans and the media to provide success and the rewards are very high. But in an age where a couple of bad results can get a manager the dreaded vote of confidence or have him being questioned if his reign is over, it seems inevitable that clubs will use everything at their disposal to get the best players into the teams. And if that means bending a few rules to contact players from other clubs then so be it.

Anyone who thinks that money does not exchange hands to facilitate the transfers of players is living in never-never land. Players talk, managers talk, agents talk, newspapers gossip and fans speculate incessantly about who is going where, and who is the next signing.

Read my story about becoming a Professional Footballer - Part 1 and Part 2

So what exactly is Newell talking about? I'm sure his comments will have stirred up a storm inside the clubs and managers offices. Football managers need to have alot of skills on and off the field including attracting good players. In fact that has to be THE biggest skill for a manager. Once he has the best players he then has to turn his attention to creating them into a winning team. And like any business these skills take a long time to cultivate.

Anyone who has their own business will know that finding your suppliers (or players) is a time consuming process and one that involves making a lot of connections and contacts with people inside and outside of your chosen industry.

Well Football is no different. Managers and clubs alike have to try to find the best players. They need a vast resource of contacts to rely on and of course sometimes this includes paying people for their services, whether that be legal or not.

I bet there is not a top club in Europe that hasn't tried to find a way to Thierry Henrys private cell number. I'm sure Chelsea and Man Utd will have both made attempts to get Henry without Wengers knowledge, although Wenger is an intelligent man and knows the pitfalls of having one of the best strikers in the world.

So all credit to Mike Newell for commenting on this rather obvious fact about bungs and back-handers. Lets hope that he is still able to get return phone calls from other clubs when he is in negotiations to buy players.

Sources : BBC Article

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