Frank Lampard yesterday became the first major English footballer to back the drive to clean up the game's image - battered by the recent transfer bungs saga - when he said that he would be happy to pay his own agent's fees himself under the new Premier League rules.
The day after Lord Stevens said that his bungs inquiry was still not satisfied of the probity of 39 transfers involving eight unnamed Premiership clubs, Lampard said that it was important players themselves contributed to fighting what he described as the "negativity" around English football. The payment of players' agents' fees in transfers by clubs has been a major factor in the public's perception that middlemen are making millions from the game.
"I'll be happy to pay my agent personally according to new Premier League rules," Lampard said in an interview with BBC Radio Five Live. "I don't have a problem with that and neither do I have a problem with anything that makes the game more transparent. There's been too much negativity around football recently with people talking about bungs." With Lord Stevens' inquiry due to report in two months' time - and the possibility of charges resulting from his findings - as well as the fallout from the BBC Panorama investigation into corruption in football, the issue of agents' roles has fallen under the spotlight - never more so than last week when Steve McClaren's agent Colin Gordon branded the "majority" of agents were corrupt, although he later claimed it was a "minority".
On 2 June, the Premier League agreed that agents' fees in a transfer, usually around 10 per cent of the value of a player's contract, should now be paid by their clients rather than the buying club. In the past it had proved more tax-efficient for the clubs to pay them. The new rule is unlikely to reduce agents' fees - they will simply have to negotiate larger contracts in order for their clients to be able to pay them.
However, Lampard's remarks at least show a willingness from one of the nation's top players to assume some responsibility for repairing English football's recently tarnished image. The Chelsea midfielder also said: "I would like to see us getting back to basics and remembering what it is we love football for, why we support a club - rather than all the negative stuff."
Lord Stevens has not even told the Premiership clubs the identity of the eight who, from a group of 25, are still under suspicion. The former Metropolitan police commissioner, and his Quest investigative team, will even continue to question clubs they have cleared completely in order to keep the entire football fraternity in the dark - and prevent leaks to the media - over the identity of the eight.
One of the key recommendations Lord Stevens looks set to make when his inquiry is completed is for an independent "clearing house" for Premiership transfers which has tough powers of investigation.
He is also likely to criticise the Football Association's compliance unit, which has been derided for being underfunded and lacking direction.
It was perhaps no coincidence that yesterday the FA announced its compliance unit had charged three relatively minor agents for rule breaking. Already the FA's compliance unit is under pressure from the announcement of the 39 deals under suspicion - all of which had been passed by the unit. Yesterday an FA source claimed that some of those 39 deals were also under retrospective scrutiny by the governing body.
On a wider scale, the FA is now pushing for a new set of regulations for agents to be brought in before the January transfer window, which it hopes will provide greater legitimacy in the face of criticisms from Lord Stevens' report.
Among the new rules, the FA wants greater power over foreign agents, over whom it currently has no jurisdiction. In the future, foreign agents may have to register with the FA in order to be allowed to work on deals in Britain.
The FA wants to crack down on "dual representation" when agents work on behalf of players and clubs. It also wants "exempt persons" in transfer deals to be registered and subject to FA rules. Currently, an individual who is not a licensed agent qualifies as exempt if a solicitor or a parent or sibling of a player.
The most serious of the FA's charges yesterday involved Charles Collymore, one of the agents in the Panorama sting, who was hit with breaching the rules for allegedly touting the Luton Town player Enoch Showunmi to Millwall without the consent of his club.The charges relate to the Luton manager Mike Newell's comments in January about bungs and have no connection with the allegations made by Panorama.Reuse content