James Lawton: Stretford affair proof of need to tackle agents

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The Independent Football

The decision of the police not to prosecute the agent Paul Stretford for perjury should do nothing to lessen the pressure on the Football Association for a thorough re-examination of the Wayne Rooney transfer deal.

Stretford's exoneraton in the matter of whether he deliberately misled a court is one thing. The question of whether the FA can afford not to engage so many of the disturbing implications of the affair is plainly quite another.

Someone at Soho Square headquarters, rather amazingly in the current power vacuum, came up with the decent and proper reaction to the Adrian Mutu case. The seven-month ban showed a willingness to apply to football the kind of administration which implies an understanding of how the world works beyond the touchline.

Such enlightenment is now in desperate need when the FA applies itself to the challenge of properly controlling the influence and outrageous profits of agents. Not so long ago most leading managers had many descriptions of the role of most agents and among the more flattering was "scourge". Now we are led to believe that big-time football could not function without them.

That it is a shocking and ruinously expensive folly is only underlined when you set against the poverty of the majority of English football clubs the agent's fee for the Rooney deal: £1.5m.

Last month the FA said it was "actively pursuing" the matter of the Rooney deal. It is a promise that has to be made good if English football is not to lose another huge chunk of credibility.

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