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Sunday, January 22, 2006
'We have nothing to hide', insist Man Utd

Chief executive David Gill insists Manchester United have no reason to be embarrassed about revealing they paid 2.2million to agents last year.

The figure will be confirmed when United announce a 20% reduction in profits to 46million tomorrow.

Even though the Red Devils are no longer under any obligation to publicise such details following Malcolm Glazer's 790million takeover, Gill decided to release the figures in an effort to maintain the transparency of the previous two years.

Of the cash paid out, 1.5million went to Paul Stretford's Proactive group as the second - and final instalment - for their handling of Wayne Rooney's 27million transfer from Everton in 2004.

Another 300,000 went to Edwin van der Sar's advisor following the Dutch goalkeeper's 2million summer move from Fulham.

Although there is no suggestion of wrong-doing in any of Manchester United's transactions, the mind-boggling figures come at a time when the work of agents is under close scrutiny following high-profile bung allegations from Mike Newell and Ian Holloway, plus Sven-Goran Eriksson's contention that the Premiership is 'riddled with corruption'.

But Gill insists United's payments are only in line with those of their major rivals and believes it would be to everyone's benefit if the rest of the Premiership followed his own club's lead.

'These payments are not unusual and we are not embarrassed by the figures,' Gill told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek programme.

'We have nothing to hide. We are transparent and publish our figures when no other Premier League club does, so I do not see why we should be castigated or hauled over the coals for it.

'As a club we believe the whole regulatory system would benefit from universal publication and it would help debunk some of the myths around agents at the moment.'

Although United were only forced into releasing payments paid to agents by former major shareholders John Magnier and JP McManus, it has proved the catalyst for the Football League to publish similar figures for all their member clubs.

The Premier League has so far opted not to follow suit, so no-one knows exactly how much the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have paid to agents in recent years, although they are likely to be similar to those that will be produced by the Old Trafford outfit tomorrow.

'These sums represent the market place we operate in and the costs which have to be incurred to secure top talent,' said Gill.

'The agent provides a service. The issue is who pays for it, the player or the acquiring club.

'But either way, it is not a zero-sum game. In the case of Wayne Rooney, if he had to pay his agent, he would just demand a higher salary. The money has to come from somewhere.

'As far as Wayne is concerned, the 1.5million is split between 1million for negotiating the transfer and 500,000 in relation to his contract. We highlighted this payment last summer and there will be no further fees over the duration of what is a six-year contract.'

Tomorrow's announcement represents the first profit figures released during the Glazer era, although the 11-month period to June 2005 only covers three months of the American's time in control.

Gill blames a drop in revenues from both the Premier League and the Champions League for the fall in profits and although he expects a small rise over the next 12 months, United's failure to extend their stay in Europe beyond Christmas for the first time in a decade will restrict potential for growth.

However, from 2007 onwards, when revenues from the 8,000-seat stadium expansion start to roll into the club and a hoped for increase in shirt sponsorship following the termination of Vodafone's current deal, Gill believes the picture is decidedly rosy.

And although the club did spend 6.6million in banking and legal fees during Glazer's controversial bid for the club, Gill is confident the United empire is now moving far more smoothly.

'We are still the most profitable club in the world,' he said.

'There will be a knock-on effect from our disappointing performance in the Champions League this year but from 2007 onwards, the situation is looking very positive.

'Reading from the outside, it all looks doom and gloom but that is not the situation on the inside.

'At this time last year, we were caught up in a whirl of speculation which was not good for the business.

'Now the situation has been clarified we have a much more stable environment to work in and longer-term perspective to our work.'




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