The backlash against agents has already begun ahead of Tuesday's Panorama programme, which is expected to name Premiership clubs and agents alleged to have been involved in breaking industry rules. An increasing number of players in the lower divisions are now sacking agents rather than handing over large sums to them, while the football authorities believe new regulations will finally make it impossible for the same person to represent both club and player. Theoretically, that should reduce the opportunities for illegal inducements to be offered to managers and club officials.
The Football League have already introduced a rule outlawing so-called "dual representation", and the Premier League followed suit at their AGM in June. They have asked the Football Association to implement it in their own regulations, which should be done in time for the January transfer window. A Football League official said yesterday: "Initial indications are that the new regulations are already having a positive effect on transfer negotiations."
In one recent case, a player refused to pay the £30,000 being demanded by an agent for renegotiating a contract, and used his father instead. The Wycombe defender Danny Senda also sacked his agent for scuppering a move to Luton Town by allegedly demanding a fee from the club as well as the player. Luton's manager, Mike Newell, refused to pay it and called the deal off.
It was Newell who provided the impetus for separate investigations by the FA and the Premier League into corruption by casually mentioning that he had been offered a "bung" by an agent as part of a transfer deal. Lord Stevens is due to complete his report to the Premier League shortly.
Kevin Bond, currently the assistant manager of Newcastle but previously assistant to Harry Redknapp at Southampton and Portsmouth, is among those believed to have been contacted by Panorama. He missed Newcastle's Uefa Cup tie in Estonia last week in order to seek legal advice. Also watching the programme with interest will be Peter Harrison, an agent who was the victim of an undercover sting and Redknapp, who said after Portsmouth's win at Charlton yesterday: "I know exactly what's gone on and I'm absolutely one million per cent innocent. It's farcical what's happened to me." Harrison says he is "absolutely innocent of offering, giving or accepting any bungs". Meanwhile Graham Bean, the former FA compliance officer, has now withdrawn his co-operation from Panorama.
Gordon Taylor, the chief exec-utive of the Professional Footballers' Association, said last night: "At the PFA we've seen some extraordinary charges for work that hasn't been done by agents. While it looks to be a straightforward solution that the payment to an agent comes from the player, it's all been so contrary in the past that the jury will have to be out on it.
"In fairness, it's an attempt to clarify what's been a maze of ambiguity and opportunities to abuse the transfer system."
Panorama, BBC1, Tuesday, 9pmReuse content