Newell plans to name director in FA evidence

Amid the controversy fuelled by Luton's manager, Football League figures show clubs' expenditure to third parties has fallen slightly. Nick Harris reports
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The Independent Online

As the Football League yesterday revealed a slight downturn in payments to agents by the 72 non-Premiership clubs in the second half of last year, the Luton Town manager Mike Newell said that one of the names he will provide to the Football Association in relation to his "bungs" allegations is that of a club director.

Newell has claimed that he has been offered bungs by agents and by other clubs' officials. The timing of the League's publication of payments to agents is coincidental, but it highlights the amount of money agents take from the game.

The League's 72 clubs made commitments to pay agents a total of £4.4m between July and December last year, compared to £5m for the same period in 2004. According to yesterday's figures clubs paid agents in 13 per cent of 1,765 player transactions. These included transfers, registrations, loan deals, contract updates and contract cancellations.

Championship clubs accounted for 85 per cent (£3.7m) of the £4.4m total, with League One and League Two clubs accounting for 12 per cent (£549,000) and three per cent (£137,000) respectively.

The biggest spenders, for the second season running, were Leeds, who agreed to pay agents £576,800. Last year they topped the list with £1.55m. Norwich were second with £438,000, followed by Leicester, Southampton and Brighton. Crewe were the only Championship club to pay nothing, as they did last year.

Newell's club, Luton, saw a big increase in payments, from £6,000 last year to £92,000. This can be attributed principally to the costs involved in updating contracts following promotion. Players' wages rose when they moved to the higher division.

Similarly, it is no surprise to see Nottingham Forest topping the payments table (with £124,950) in League One following relegation from the Championship. Eighteen players moved in and out of the City Ground between July and December. Nine League One clubs spent nothing.

In League Two 11 clubs spent nothing and Bristol Rovers' table-topping expenditure was only £29,000 for 23 transactions. To put that in context, Manchester United agreed to pay Ruud van Nistelrooy's agent £1.2m for one simple transaction in 2004 - overseeing the Dutchman's new contract.

Newell provided fresh detail about his allegations when he said yesterday: "I will present evidence [to the FA] of how a club official, a director, offered me a sweetener - a bribe - to sell him one of our players when we [Luton] were in administration.

"Perhaps I should have been shocked, but you know this kind of thing goes on. The director didn't say how much it would be because I wouldn't let it get to that stage. I was determined not to sell.

"Agents have offered me cuts of transfer deals. I haven't got a long list to present to the FA, but there are instances I do know about. I know I have opened up a can of worms but it should have been opened a long time ago."

Kevin Ratcliffe, the former Wales captain who played with Newell at Everton and later managed at Shrewsbury, has become the latest managerial figure to testify that he was offered a bung. "I never received anything but I was offered something if a transfer would happen," he said. "I think it happens throughout the leagues."

Manchester United's manager Sir Alex Ferguson said yesterday: "It's the usual thing - how can you prove these things? The FA has probably got more evidence than Mike Newell, I'd imagine. I'm sure they have got plenty of files. But how do you prove it?"

By publishing payments to agents the Football League has encouraged transparency not seen in the Premiership.

"By putting these figures into the public arena, League clubs have provided the catalyst for a wider debate about the role of agents in football," said Lord Mawhinney, the League's chairman.

The Football League is drafting new regulations to outlaw dual representation - the situation when a single agent is paid by both a player and a club during a single transaction - and these will be considered by clubs in March with a view to introducing them before the start of next season. Mawhinney added: "We are not trying to get agents out of football.

"The problem is, many of them are good and play by the rules but there's a minority that don't, as in every other walk of life, and it's the behaviour of that minority which affects the whole lot."

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