Rooney agent given 18-month ban

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The Independent Football

Wayne Rooney's agent Paul Stretford has been fined £300,000 and banned from working as an agent for 18 months by a disciplinary commission, the Football Association announced yesterday.

The independent regulatory commission's sanctions follow charges brought by the FA against Stretford, founder of Proactive Sports Management, relating to how he acquired the right to represent Rooney in 2002. The charges were also for improper conduct in relation to Stretford "making false and/or misleading witness statements to police and giving false and/or misleading testimony to Warrington Crown Court" in a case about the circumstances of how he came to act for the England striker.

The ban will not come into force until after any appeal or move to go to arbitration by Stretford. The second nine months of the suspension will not be invoked if he is found to have not broken any other regulations.

Stretford has fought a long legal battle against the FA over whether it had the jurisdiction to charge him, and then whether he could go to an arbitration panel before a disciplinary hearing had dealt with the case. The commission ruled as "proved" seven of nine charges brought by the FA against Stretford for breaches of the Fifa players' agent regulations. The charges included failing to protect Rooney's interests and failing to respect the rights of third parties.

An FA statement read: "The commission found that Mr Stretford did encourage Mr Rooney and his parents to enter into a representation agreement with Proactive Sports Management Limited on July 17 2002 although he knew Mr Rooney was still then under contract with Pro-Form Sports Management Limited."

A charge of enticing Rooney away from his previous agent was not proven.

In relation to the Warrington Crown Court case, the commission found proven two improper conduct charges. The statement added: "The commission found that Mr Stretford had made a misleading witness statement and had given untruthful evidence in court in criminal proceedings in Warrington Crown Court, particularly in relation to the existence, dates and nature of those representation agreements dated July 17 2002 and September 19 2002."

A further charge of entering into a representation contract with Rooney for eight years – six years longer than the two-year limit for written contracts between agents and their clients – was also proved.

Stretford said he will be appealing. "I believe the verdicts of the disciplinary panel against me are a travesty of the facts heard by its members during the hearing," he said. "I will be lodging an immediate appeal against the verdicts and continue to maintain my innocence of the charges. These charges came about as a result of my appearance at a criminal trial as a witness for the prosecution against men accused of blackmailing me with menaces.

"In pursuing their case against me, the FA seems almost wilfully to have cast me as the accused in the trial rather than a prosecution witness acting properly in the interests of justice."