Sun, Feb 18, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Ferguson joins fray over players' agents

AFP , MANCHESTER, ENGLAND

Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed how he had to ban an agent from Manchester United's training ground after he was caught trying to approach players as young as 12.

In comments that will fuel growing calls for a crackdown on the activities of agents who make fortunes from acting as middlemen in soccer's multimillion pound transfer market, the United boss recalled how they had to go to extreme measures to stop the agent from approaching the youngsters.

"We barred him -- so he started to wait outside the academy picking out the cars of the parents, stopping them and tapping them up," he said.

Ferguson, whose son Jason previously worked as an agent, weighed into the debate a day in the wake of an intervention by his club captain Gary Neville, said they should be kicked out of the game.

The Scot does not go that far, but admits that the time has come for them to be bound by more stringent guidelines in order to stem the flow of money going out of the game.

United, the only Premiership club to publish details of payments to agents, shelled out a total of ?1.8 million (US$3.53 million) last year alone.

"In an ideal world, Gary is correct, but agents are here and I have no problem with players taking their advice," Ferguson said.

"But I'd like there to be an investigation into the payments or tariffs of agents. They are taking a lot of money out of football -- so much so that clubs are in danger of not being able to buy players," he said.

"That's a dangerous precedent because agents are starting to control the market because they are buying all the top players and that's happening at this moment," Ferguson said.

"But if they were paid the same tariffs and same rates as lawyers and accountants, and had a responsible attitude towards the industry, then there is nothing wrong with that," he said.

Neville said earlier in the week that he would like to see his professional peers rely less on agents and take more advice from their union, the Professional Footballers Association (PFA).

"One guy can go in [to a deal] and expect to be giving hundreds of thousands or, in this day and age, even millions [to an agent] -- and that money is going out of the game," Neville said.

"The clubs should keep that money -- or, if they're earning it, the players. Players need good advice and good accountants -- but they don't need people taking hundreds of thousands off them," he said.

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