James Lawton: Lineker case highlights dismal FA failure

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The Independent Online

The Gary Lineker libel trial ended in confusion and doubt, and may be re-tried, but already it has highlighted the anarchy of agents - and the Football Association's pitiful failure to attempt to apply any grip on their activities.

The Gary Lineker libel trial ended in confusion and doubt, and may be re-tried, but already it has highlighted the anarchy of agents - and the Football Association's pitiful failure to attempt to apply any grip on their activities.

While the FA chairman, Brian Barwick, may congratulate himself on his successful campaign to have his favourite club, Liverpool, defend their Champions' League title, he would be far better employed working on a strategy to control the problems engaged by the Lineker case.

Consider the dismal trail of circumstances that provoked Lineker's protest in his column about the fact that an agent took £2m out of Harry Kewell's move from shattered Leeds United to Liverpool.

It started with a case that should have shocked the English game to its core - the trial that followed Wayne Rooney's transfer to Manchester United, when it was seen for the first time that real-life gangsters were involved in football. As Lineker's own agent, Jon Holmes, points out acutely, it was the part played by mobsters in the Black Sox World Series baseball scandal that stimulated American authorities to impose stringent regulations. It means that the idea of an agent negotiating deals between clubs is unthinkable in America. An agent deals only with his client - and is controlled not by the leagues, where he has no status, but by the players' unions.

Whether or not a new Lineker trial is called, the certainty is that Barwick and the FA - who yesterday initiated charges against Rooney's agent, Paul Stretford - realise that they have some work to do to get out of the dock.

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