FA to rule on share ownership

The Football Association is set to launch an initiative against allegations of corruption within the national game by introducing new rules that will forbid employees of football clubs from owning shares in player agent companies.

They hope that the move - which will also prevent agents from investing in football clubs - will put a stop to fears that managers could potentially make a personal profit from signing a player who is represented by an agency in which they have a shareholding.

However, the plans, which would be introduced in time for the summer transfer window, would be difficult to enforce. Many managers who have owned shares in public limited player agencies have done so through brokers who have kept their identities secret.

The issue has been highlighted in the past two years when it was revealed that managers such as Kevin Keegan, Sir Bobby Robson and Graeme Souness had, at some time, owned shares in Proactive. The company, which is the player representation arm of Formation plc, counts Wayne Rooney, Nick Butt and Andy Cole among its clients.

However, the company, which was floated by its founder Paul Stretford in April 2001, was valued earlier this year at around £12m and it is unlikely that any of its high-profile investors would have made much of a profit. The notion that a manager could dramatically move an agency's share price by buying one player represented by that company has been dismissed.

In the current depressed transfer market some player agencies that were floated in the boom time of the late 1990s have seen their share price fall so low that they have become the subject of management buy-outs and taken private.

The wider question of regulating agents' activities has always been problematic for the game's governing bodies who have had little help from the clubs. While Manchester United have published their payments to agents, and the Football League will release their clubs' agents' fees next week, the rest of the Premiership have remained secretive.

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