Keegan to join talks on transfers

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Kevin Keegan and Craig Brown, the England and Scotland coaches, have formed part of a united front backing the "Transfer Taskforce", which meets for the first time in Switzerland today.

Kevin Keegan and Craig Brown, the England and Scotland coaches, have formed part of a united front backing the "Transfer Taskforce", which meets for the first time in Switzerland today.

The six-man Taskforce, which includes the Professional Footballers' Association's chief executive, Gordon Taylor, has been given until 31 October to reach agreement on an alternative to the present transfer system.

The European Competitions Commissioner, Mario Monti, agreed to extend the original deadline of 20 September following a meeting with the Taskforce chairman, Per Ravn Omdal, last week when it was also hinted a partial retention of the current system could, after all, be acceptable to Europe's politicians.

After meeting officials in Brussels yesterday, the Taskforce headed for the headquarters of European football's governing body, Uefa, in Nyon where they will bid to find common ground over the "compensation" agreements for players over 24 who change clubs while still under contract.

But yesterday's meeting of Europe's leading coaches, including Keegan, Brown and the Football Association's technical director, Howard Wilkinson, was united in its backing of the Taskforce as the driving force behind negotiations with the European Commission.

"The challenge from the EC to the current system could lead to total chaos if solutions are not found," said a statement released by the coaches following their meeting in Geneva. "We support the efforts being made to protect the training, development and education of young players and the proper use of contracts and compensation to support stability in the game.

"It is essential for the stability of European football and the future well-being of international competition that the strengths of the transfer system are maintained. We call on the EC to listen to the concerns being expressed by European football and to work with the new Transfer Taskforce to produce an agreement which recognises the special nature of national and international football."

The statement comes three days after the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and his German counterpart, Gerhard Schröder, warned against excessive reform of the present system.

The Taskforce will break their work into three main areas, the first of which - the scrapping of international transfers for players under 18 - has already seen an agreement reached. There is also a consensus that a compensation system should be set up which covers the development of players who move while still under the age of 24. The precise details of this scheme will form a major part of today's discussions, which are scheduled to last half a day.

But the major difficulties lie in finding a solution to those transfers of contracted players over 24. Last week the EC backed down from their threat to outlaw the transfer system but they are adamant the escalating fees involved in the movement of players, culminating in the £38.5m it took for Real Madrid to entice Luis Figo from Barcelona, should be brought to an end and that contracts should now be honoured as a matter of course.

The major European leagues apart from Premiership have agreed to the introduction of two transfer windows in every season. The first of these would run from the end of each domestic season until 15 September, with the second to run from 15 December to 31 January.

In addition, Taylor is proposing that compensation should be determined by the salary remaining on a contract, so that in the event of a player earning £500,000 a year leaving a club with two years remaining on his contract the fee would be £1m.

Uefa see this as a minimum starting point and would prefer to adopt the Spanish system which has a "release" figure incorporated within a contract. By imposing a maximum price on the player and preventing clubs agreeing contracts for a period above three years, Uefa believe the present system would be modified to an extent which would appease the EC.

"We believe that the events of last week represent a breakthrough in our dialogue with the European Commission," said the Uefa director of communications, Mike Lee. "We must now work with the whole of European football to build on that and to have a constructive discussion about the future.

"Time is tight, but we do now have the opportunity to produce a sensible package of reforms to safeguard the future of the professional game."