PFA chief launches scathing attack on 'arrogant' Stevens

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The Independent Online

The Professional Footballers' Association last night launched a stinging attack on Lord Stevens' "bungs" inquiry, with the PFA chief executive, Gordon Taylor, branding Stevens "unprofessional, patronising and arrogant".

Taylor told The Independent he was "totally gobsmacked" that one of Stevens' key recommendations was that the PFA should no longer act as players' agents. He added that the Football Association has already assured him the PFA's agency work is under no threat.

"In fact the FA would like us to be more involved, not less," Taylor said. "And Fifa actively encourages and endorses unions across Europe and elsewhere to do this work."

The PFA's expanding agency arm now looks after 70 professionals in England, including Premiership players at Newcastle, Wigan and West Ham and an array of upcoming talent in the Championship such as West Bromwich's much coveted defender, Curtis Davies.

While the FA's private guarantee about the PFA's work means that one of Stevens' key recommendations will be ignored, it at least staves off any theoretical threat of a players' strike. "It was inconceivable it would come to that anyway, because there's no way we'll stop what we do," said Taylor's deputy, Mick McGuire, who heads the PFA's agency arm. "We'd fight tooth and nail to carry on looking after the interests of our members in the same way we have done for more than 100 years."

Taylor also revealed that 10 years ago, after widespread dissatisfaction from its members about the behaviour of many conventional agents, the PFA offered to provide a monitoring service for the FA to help stamp out corruption in the business.

"But the FA said no, they weren't interested in our help," Taylor said. "It was largely in response to that stance that the PFA decided to develop our own agency. If we'd handled all transfers in the first place, there would never have been any need for an inquiry into bungs or anything like that."

The PFA is attracting more players wanting its agency's services because of disillusionment with many conventional agents. Reasons include huge charges by some agents (one charged a player 15 per cent of his contract's total value for one day's work), conflicts of interest (agents representing a player and club simultaneously without telling the player), monies going astray without explanation, and lack of contact or assistance being no bar to a large annual invoice.

In an Independent survey of players in England earlier this year, almost 60 per cent said they had changed agent or never had one because they were unhappy with them. Almost 75 per cent said they wanted the PFA to develop its management agency and would consider using it.

Taylor was angry that Stevens' Quest team has made no attempt to involve the PFA in its investigation, nor sought its opinion and experience of faults with the transfer system. "For him to subsequently conclude that there should be no role for the PFA in acting as players' representatives is unprofessional, patronising and arrogant," Taylor said.

In a development separate from the Stevens' inquiry yesterday, City of London police confirmed they are investigating allegations of fraud against two football agents and are looking into further allegations of corruption within the game. "It is not part of the Panorama programme [investigation] and it is not connected to Lord Stevens' inquiry," a spokesman said.

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