Stretford will not face perjury case

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The Independent Online

Paul Stretford, Wayne Rooney's agent, will not be prosecuted for perjury in the wake of the collapsed blackmail trial against associates of Rooney's first agent, Peter McIntosh.

Cheshire police, The Independent understands, will make the announcement today after an investigation which followed the trial's dramatic collapse last month when the Crown Prosecution Service told the court: "We do not feel able to rely upon Paul Stretford as a witness in this case."

John Hyland, a friend of McIntosh, and the brothers Anthony and Christopher Bacon, were formally acquitted of blackmail. They had been charged after Stretford had covertly filmed Hyland shouting at him to sign a contract which would share Stretford's earnings from representing Rooney. In his statements to the police and in his evidence at Warrington Crown Court, Stretford always denied that he owed money to McIntosh, claiming he did not begin to represent Rooney until December 2002, after the teenage striker's two-year contract with McIntosh ran out.

However, defence lawyers applied for documents to be disclosed by Stretford's agency, Proactive Sports Management, which showed that Rooney had signed full representation agreements twice, in July and September 2002, during the course of Rooney's contract with McIntosh.

The CPS barrister, John Hedgecoe, then told the court the prosecution was offering no further evidence, saying the agreements "seriously call into question the evidence of Paul Stretford".

Cheshire Police are, however, understood to have concluded after an investigation that there is no evidence on which to proceed with a perjury charge. To obtain a perjury conviction, prosecutors would have to prove that a person knowingly lied on oath. Stretford maintained after the trial's collapse that he had genuinely thought his contracts with Rooney had been for "image rights" only - to handle Rooney's sponsorships and endorsements - not to represent him in negotiations with Everton, and the problem was with the precise wording of the agreements.

His troubles may not be over, however. The Football Association said last month they were "actively pursuing the matter," and the game's governing body are thought certain to ask police to open up their files on an affair which is still sending shock waves through football.

An FA investigation - one which will almost certainly question Stretford's right to continue as a licensed agent - is inevitable in view of some of the more disquieting aspects of the trial. Rules governing the conduct of agents, set by football's world governing body, Fifa, and administered here by the FA, require agents not to poach players from each other. Fifa's rules also limit player-agent contracts to two years, but in Rooney's case Stretford told the court the "image rights" agreement was for eight years. If it was, in fact, a full representation agreement, for eight years, the FA could decide it constitutes a serious breach of the rules.

Overall, Fifa requires players' agents to be people of "impeccable reputation", a qualification which has been called seriously into question by the trial's grim revelations.

Most damaging of all was the linking of football legend Kenny Dalglish with the London underworld when the court was told that the former Liverpool and Scotland striker, then Proactive's director of football operations, had arranged for the convicted criminal Tommy Adams to be present at two meetings in the vexed talks between Stretford and Hyland.

Stretford said in court that he had not known Adams was going to be at the meetings, and felt "let down" by Dalglish. During the course of the police's work on the Stretford trial, Dalglish refused to sign a statement, and he has not commented publicly since the trial collapsed.