Call for clampdown on agent payments

Keith Harris, the former Football League chairman who has worked as an adviser to Manchester United, says the English football authorities should join forces to stop football agents leeching vast sums of money from the game.

United's major shareholder, John Magnier, wants the club to reveal full details of the involvement of agents in a string of controversial transfers, a move that has intensified his falling-out with manager Sir Alex Ferguson over a racehorse, but Harris believes it is time for the Football Association and the Premier League to find out exactly what is being paid to whom and with what justification.

Last week, faced with 99 questions tabled by Magnier and his partner JP McManus, who between them own more than a quarter of the club, United revealed that they had paid £750,000 in agents' fees as part of Louis Saha's £12.825m move from Fulham.

Yesterday, a Sunday newspaper claimed United had parted with £1.2m in agents' fees to secure the purchase of Diego Forlan from Independiente two years ago, adding 22 per cent to the price paid for the Uruguayan striker.

However Harris, a United shareholder who advised the club during Sky's ill-fated takeover bid in 1999, does not believe it should be down to United alone to sort out the matter.

"None of us can understand why United needed to write out a cheque of that size in respect of Saha," Harris told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme. "Agents have now become an entrenched part of the game but if you talk to any club chairman, they have been a blight on the industry for years.

"I can't understand why the percentages agents are paid to effect player transfers are so high. I can't understand why, when agents are there to represent players, it is the clubs who are paying them and I would also like to know where the money goes when it goes into agents' pockets.

"At a time when the game needs more money investing in it, we are faced with the prospect of more money leaving it.

"There are a whole host of questions that need to be answered and I would like to see the FA or the Premiership to sponsor an inquiry to try to unearth exactly how much money is leaking out of the game." Most of the questions to which Magnier and McManus are demanding written answers from the United board concern payments made to agents in relation to 15 recent transfers.

Most United fans believe the move is nothing more than a further attempt to pressurise the Scot into giving way in his legal dispute with Magnier over the stud rights to record-breaking stallion Rock of Gibraltar, although some observers believe the Irish duo, whose share in the club is worth £175m, have eyes on a takeover in the long term and that the tactic is part of a broader strategy.

Supporters offered wholehearted backing to Ferguson during Saturday's 3-2 win over Southampton at Old Trafford and distributed leaflets encouraging fans to make contact with Magnier's stud base at Coolmore to express their displeasure at his stance.

However, Ferguson's emotional outburst on Friday, in which he revealed his agent son Jason had complained to police that his mail was being stolen and bins were being searched at his home, might indicate that his stance on the Rock of Gibraltar issue is wavering. Ferguson Jnr is said to be ready to give up his agent work because of the distress he has suffered following allegations that he gained secret financial benefit from his role in transfers involving United players.

general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before