Jones at head of new body

TREVOR HAYLETT

Footballers vastly overpaid? Apparently we have not seen the start of it, for a new players' organisation that has been set up in the aftermath of the Bosman judgment on transfers claims they have been selling themselves short for too long.

Appropriately, for these stakes are pretty high, the new body which will advise out-of-contract players, who could now earn themselves free transfers, is to be known as Poca (Players Out of Contract Association) - and with Vinnie Jones a driving force behind it it will not lack publicity.

Before a gathering of players - 800 were invited but only around 30 turned up - agents and club representatives, Poca, the brainchild of Jones' solicitors, Reid Minty, came into being yesterday in a Watford hotel. No promises, you understand, but the suggestions made to a handful of players from Arsenal, Tottenham and lesser lights were substantial.

For starters, how about a 25 per cent share for players of the new television deal, reputed to be in the order of pounds 600m? That alone would put an extra pounds 100,000 per year in the pockets of Premiership performers, claimed Jonathan Ebsworth from Reid Minty.

According to him, the long-established players' union, the Professional Footballers' Association, has been left behind in the new commercial world. "The PFA are not informing the players fully of their rights. Vinnie had no idea of the implications of Bosman - and presumably that goes for all other players," Ebsworth said. "The commercial aspect of the game has been blown wide open in the last five years and they have been left behind. Wage levels will go up all round because clubs will no longer have to find transfer fees."

Nicholas Stewart QC, an expert in restraint of trade cases, believes that, although the Bosman ruling affects only those players moving from one EU country to another, it is bound to embrace domestic transfers as well. "Islands can't continue to operate as islands," he said. "After Bosman very few things will remain the same."

The European Commission in Brussels yesterday reaffirmed that the changes only relate to "trans-frontier moves" and that domestic transfers (including those between England and Scotland) would remain as before. The European Social Affairs Commissioner, Padraig Flynn, said: "It is possible to continue domestic transfers in an individual member state. That is not contrary to the court judgement."

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