Football: Sugar sticks to his guns

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The Tottenham Hotspur plc chairman, Alan Sugar, warned shareholders at the company's annual general meeting yesterday of the "most devastating implications" of last year's European Union Bosman ruling on the transfer system.

Sugar insisted that the Bosman ruling, which allows players to move within Europe on free transfers at the end of their contracts, is a tremendous threat to the future of the game. He said: "We've faced all sorts of disasters in every season since I've been at the club but nothing as damaging as the effects of the Bosman ruling.

"It is the greatest danger facing this club and the rest of football. Even clever people such as Sir John Hall at Newcastle don't understand the ramifications of Bosman."

Sugar added the industry has "not yet seen the worst of it", adding that the ruling is a "licence for [football] agents to print money". Agents are now telling players not to sign long-term contracts, and this is undermining Tottenham's plan to build a strong squad of depth based on a strong youth policy, Sugar claimed. He said it is up to English clubs to stand up to the agents - to "hard nose them" and "be tough".

Tottenham investors' anger against the club's management was directed at the club's failure to make any major signings for the current season, which is now one third over.

One shareholder drew loud applause when he said that some members of the club's playing staff are "not good enough for Tottenham Hotspur. We want the best", he said. Sugar and the team manager, Gerry Francis, said the search for quality players is continuing, but the competition is tough. Sugar said it remains his personal goal to win the Premiership but "these things cannot be achieved in a flash-in-the-pan manner."

Sugar convinced the AGM that the club was in safe hands. He said: "People question my motives at Tottenham but the only thing I've got out of the club since 1991 is unadulterated stick.

"The profits belong to the club and not me. I see it as a personal challenge to make Tottenham successful. I will probably never be a popular character here, no chairman ever is, but you could have had Robert Maxwell."