IMG ready to sell out of Sven's football agency

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The Independent Online

IMG, the sports agency foun-ded by the late Mark McCormack, is considering selling its European football arm, which is the agent for England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.

The move has been mooted as part of a wider strategic review of the entire group, carried out following McCor- mack's death in May. IMG is a world leader in sports management but has lost out in the battle to represent high-profile football stars.

Rival SFX, for example, acts for England favourites David Beckham and Michael Owen, but IMG's agency business is restricted largely to young players in eastern Europe and Germany, although it does represent the Bayern Munich star Jens Jeremies and the England manager, who is rumoured to have signed a contract to coach Chelsea.

The entire football division has already been shaken up, with parts of it recently taken under the umbrella of the TWI television arm. But the sale of the football agency arm is now being considered.

Andrew Hampel, who recently took over as managing director of IMG's operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, said the division does not have much "synergy" with IMG's other interests in football, which are focused on television rights and acting for governing bodies such as the Football Association.

He said: "It's under review. It would be fair to say we didn't get it right at the outset. We might have been a bit simplistic in our business model and in understanding the complexities of the soccer agency culture." He conceded the business was being considered for sale but insisted a deal was by no means guaranteed yet.

But the group could find selling the business hard. As well as a lack of big-name footballers to drum up interest, the sports sponsorship and football transfer market has suffered a severe downturn over recent years.