Top agent fears reforms will go too far

December 22, 2006

A leading agent has warned of dire consequences if the football authorities fail to work together to create a set of transparent new guidelines for the transfer system.

Phil Smith of the First Artist Corporation is wary that the Lord Stevens inquiry into corruption in the game could hasten what he believes would be an unnecessary crackdown on his industry.

Smith said: 'We have got to find a way not to completely kill the transfer system, and allow enough flexibility for a deal to take effect rather than close the door on them.

'We are treading a fine line now. We have got to concentrate on moving forward and finding our way through the system. Just closing up every available avenue to players is not going to help anyone.'

Lord Stevens cleared parties involved in 345 out of 362 deals of any impropriety - but reserved judgement on a further 17 due to the failure of the agents concerned to co-operate.

The Football Association - who remain in effect the guardians of the transfer system - insist it is too early to hint at possible sanctions before the circumstances of those agents is known.

In his role as a member of the Association of Football Agents, Smith added: 'We are talking about only five per cent of the deals still being outstanding, and we cannot be responsible for every deal.

'But we can have a say in how to move things forward, and if the governing bodies are bright they will allow us to have a say - if they make it too restrictive they will drive it back underground.'

However Luton boss Mike Newell - whose claims of a widespread `bung' culture within the game sparked the issue in the first place, believes Lord Stevens has not gone far enough.

Newell insists focusing solely on the last two years of transfer activity was a mistake, with most questionable deals done in the period preceding the beginning of the inquiry.

Newell said: 'The game is not clean and Lord Stevens said that yesterday when he was asked the question directly.

'He said he felt there was corruption - and that's the only question where anybody needs to take notice of the answer.

'Go back five or 10 years and involve everybody - because people with nothing to hide will fear nothing.

'They keep rolling these agents out who say the game's clean and only five per cent of activity is being questioned - but they've only gone into (the last) two years in the Premier League.

'In those two years clubs are more professional - so it's not as widespread. But a lot of these agents have made their millions in the last five to 10 years.

'There will be a lot of people breathing a sigh of relief on their yachts and in their villas - and I'm not just talking about agents now.'