Mawhinney wants action to end 'tapping up' of players

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The Independent Football

The Football League chairman, Lord Brian Mawhinney, has called for urgent action to stop players being "tapped up". Mawhinney believes that the rules on players' contracts need to be toughened because clubs and agents do not respect them.

Speaking at the British Association of Sports and the Law conference in London yesterday, Mawhinney said: "I have lost count of the number of Football League chairmen who have complained to me about unregulated approaches to some of their players.

"Too many agents behave as if players' contracts are at best a minor inconvenience. And clubs, too, make moves to sign or sell players before the end of their contracts."

Mawhinney said that this situation had led to both transfer fees and wages spiralling. He explained: "Apart from the contractual problem all this activity is very cost inflationary.

"Consequently, there is a real danger that many fans will begin to suspect that contracts are not worth the paper on which they are written.

"This makes fans cynical and too much cynicism simply undermines the value of the product. Eventually it may cause fans to tire of this great game."

Mawhinney went on to claim that the sport had still to understand the football world post-Bosman. "To date, football has not adjusted, in any legal sense, to the Bosman ruling," he said. "Indeed, that ruling is putting the integrity of player contracts under greater pressure.

"The time for a debate about a new and credible legal framework to govern the relationship between clubs and players should be approaching."

On the international scene, the four-match ban handed out to the Portugal coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, for the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign has effectively been reduced to three matches following a meeting of Uefa's appeals panel yesterday.

European football's governing body said that the ban had been changed to three months including one month suspended, which will allow Scolari to resume his coaching duties one day before his team's final qualifying match against their Group A rivals Finland on 21 November.

Scolari received the original punishment for what Uefa described as an "assault" on the Serbia player Ivica Dragutinovic following Portugal's 1-1 home draw in a qualifier in Lisbon last month. Dragutinovic, who was shown a red card at the end of the match, was given a two-match ban for improper conduct.

Scolari will still be unable to coach Portugal during their visits to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in October and at home to Armenia in November in their qualifying campaign.