Football: Anelka the inspiration as agents' position is tackled

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The Independent Online
A CALL for agents to make an undertaking not to induce players to break their contracts with clubs has emerged from a conference seemingly inspired by Arsenal's vice-chairman, David Dein, in the wake of the Nicolas Anelka saga.

Yesterday's "agents' seminar" in London was organised by the Premier League and was attended by representatives of 16 top-flight clubs and agents - including some from abroad - as well as the Football Association and the Football League.

While regulations have been introduced in recent years to control agents' activities, the idea of the meeting was to assess ways of widening discussion of the issue, to improve the domestic rule book and to send a message of intent to Fifa.

Dein was, of course, involved in this summer's protracted controversy surrounding Anelka, who effectively forced Arsenal to sell him to Real Madrid through a combative stance, allegedly fuelled by his brothers, who were not licensed agents.

Although leading figures in the sport realise that absolute control over the activities of players' representatives - especially those not licensed by Fifa and based overseas - may prove difficult to attain, the clear feeling was that action can still be taken.

The seminar heard from Dein, Liverpool's chief executive, Rick Parry, the Italian agent Vincenzo Morabito, who represented Lazio in talks with Arsenal over the possible acquisition of Anelka, and several Fifa-licensed agents.

The Premier League announced: "The seminar made several recommendations to ensure the integrity of the role of agents in the future and a proper regulatory framework to monitor their activities."

It was stressed at the meeting, which was the first of its kind, that a "good regulatory framework" already existed in England - one of only three countries to have its own licensing system.

However, apart from the idea of seeking an undertaking from agents not to persuade players to break contracts, it was felt that there was room for progress on a number of fronts. These included the belief that clubs should deal only with registered agents and that a need exists for greater transparency among all parties involved in transfers. That payments to agents should be spread over the period of a players' contract - reducing the temptation to negotiate several deals within a short space of time for the same client - and rates should be set for an agent's commission.

Domestic football authorities should be given a stronger role to police regulations and impose tough sanctions, while a register of each agent's clients should be available to clubs.

Concern was expressed at the involvement of agents with younger players at football academies and a call was made for a more robust exam for agents seeking a licence.