When Everton agreed to pay United pounds 5m for Kanchelskis, they also paid the player a sizeable slice to which he was entitled under the terms of his contract with United. They were not responsible, however, for the 30 per cent of United's profit - pounds 1.14m - that Donetsk claimed they were owed under a "sell-on" clause.
United, in turn, believed Donetsk had waived their cut - an agent connected with the Ukrainian club had apparently told them so - only to learn that this was not the case.
For East European clubs and non-League outfits in England the sell-on clause has become a standard of the English game. It is now potentially a way to long-term income and stability, with its possibility of a huge windfall.
Take Les Ferdinand. His first club, Hayes, of the Isthmian League, insisted on a sell-on clause of 10 per cent when they sold him to Queen's Park Rangers. They were consequently entitled to pounds 600,000, probably the equivalent of 10 seasons' gate money, when Newcastle paid Rangers pounds 6m for him.
Among the pioneers of the idea was Barry Fry when manager of Barnet, then a non-League team. Fry has always been the most avid of scouts and among the best sellers of a player and it made sense that he and his club should benefit from that. He also put the practice to good use for Southend when buying Stan Collymore from Crystal Palace for pounds 150,000 and selling him to Nottingham Forest for more than pounds 2m. Forest will duly pay Southend a sell-on cut of the fee they received from Liverpool.
Non-League clubs are now wise to the the tactic. In Barry Blackman, St Albans City have a player who has attracted much interest. "I call him the non-League Cantona," said City's manager Allan Cockram, the former Brentford midfielder. "I've said he is mercurial, which had them all reaching for dictionaries."
Coventry City seem most likely to sign him, with St Albans asking pounds 150,000 and 20 per cent of any fee Coventry subsequently receive for him, then 10 per cent from any future club who buys and sells him.
The chief executive of the Premier League, Rick Parry, has consistently agreed that more money needs to be filtered through the game, and it is likely that the pounds 1m a season it gives to the Football League will be increased.
In the meantime, the sell-on clause is one way for a smaller or weaker club to claim a slice of the Premier pie. The caveat is that it can be a cause of inflationary fees with Premiership club expecting an even higher fee when they sell in order to cover knock-on payments. Difficult as it may be to discern in the Kanchelskis wrangle, there is in there some benefit to the development of the game.Reuse content