A game in need of ethics men

Jonathan Holmes, a player's agent, believes football must now act decisively
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The Independent Online
THE bright, confident morning of a new football season has faded into a grey December mist amid allegations of financial chicanery, drug-taking and gambling. And on to my doormat drops a letter from the Football Association acknowledging my applic ation to become a licensed agent under the new Fifa rules.

It is a two-line acknowledgement containing two errors, one typographical and one grammatical, but it is on expensive paper, so it is churlish to complain. With reservations, I support the plan to license agents, especially if the aim is to limit the number of cowboys in the field, and to recognise the rights of the player to be represented in negotitations. My only gripe is with the timing of the FA's communication, coinciding as it does with the news on the back (and front) pages.

The Arsenal manager, George Graham, stands accused of taking a "bung" of boarding-school trunk rather than brown paper bag proportions. Many ask if I am surprised about these latest revelations. Frankly, I am not, and neither are many people in the game.I met Rune Hauge, the Norwegian agent involved, on several occasions, but decided not to get involved with him: some managers told me the type of deals he was offering.

Yet at no time was I called before the Premier League "bungs commission", although I conveyed some of my misgivings concerning foreign transfers to a senior official. I do not know what others in the game told them, or how tenaciously they pursued their enquiries. Nevertheless, it took the newspapers to expose a little of what was well-nigh common knowledge in the game.

Graham's assertion that he believed the payment from Hauge to be an unsolicited gift and that, having paid it back, he received no benefit, is an insult to the intelligence of ordinary football followers. As indeed were the claims of Brian Little when hewalked out on Leicester City to become manager of Aston Villa that he had not previously spoken to Doug Ellis, the Villa chairman.

Ellis and Little both insist they have not broken the Premier League's code of conduct, even though Little, who took his assistants with him to Villa Park, had seemed unlikely to resign until Ellis sacked Ron Atkinson a few days earlier.

At the same time, Russell Osman, who had been the manager of Bristol City for little more than a year, was sacked and immediately sought compensation for the early termination of his contract. But another manager promptly jumped into his shoes.

If a code of conduct seems to permit Little to walk out in mid-contract and Osman to receive no compensation for being sacked, then what value has this code of conduct? The FA are requesting that I lodge a bond worth £100,000 with Fifa before being awarded a licence to act for players, but what is the point when other attempts at policing the game by the FA are being disregarded in such a cavalier fashion?

Those in control of our national game are under the spotlight as never before, and they must now act with a decisiveness hitherto absent if the fans - who pay everyone's wages - are not to lose their faith in football.