Monday, March 06, 2006

Player's Agent who "wants to sleep well at night"

According to FIFA, football's world body, Singapore has not one registered Player's Agent (incredibly FIFA acknowledges only one in the whole of South East Asia!). But this hasn't diminished public interest in the somewhat colourful reputation of those that ply their trade in the big leagues of Europe, particularly the English Premier League which is the centre of football focus for most Singaporeans (and neighbouring Malaysians). Today, The New Paper profiled Rachel Anderson, the only female amongst the 291 player's agents registered by the English Football Association.

"In fact," the newspaper observed, "she is the only one in the world. A one-woman army taking on the establishment. Not just against the realm of the powerful English FA or the murky world of players' agents, she had also taken on the sexist Professional Footballers' Association to court. And won. When The New Paper called for a phone interview with the boss of London-based RA Management, her gloves were off immediately and she pulled no punches with her hard-hitting comments."

Anderson began her interview with a damning assessment of the culture that is said to exist in the English game. "It would take the fraud squad about 20 minutes to unearth all sorts of dodgy deals and people would be put in prison," she said. "I have said this before and I still believe this now. The names change but the frightening level of corruption never does. It is the alarming lack of decency which I cannot stand ... Oh, how I wish I can be granted amnesty so that I could testify against these agents! If I had been offered a bung or asked to offer a bribe, I would come clean and provide evidence. And if I had the absolute truth, it is guaranteed front-page news."

However, although she has 'heard things', she claims she has never been asked to partake in the sleaze. "I've never taken a bung or been offered one. That's because I have made it very clear that I don't want to get involved in such things. And all the managers and clubs that I've dealt with know this. Why should I be involved in bungs? I want to sleep well at night."

Surely, the New Paper asked, the English FA has a system of checks and balances to ensure that all transfer deals are done by the book. After all, when Anderson joined the industry 13 years ago, she had to lodge a £100,000 security deposit with the governing body, which will be confiscated if she is ever found guilty of any wrongdoing.

"A complete waste of money," she slammed. "The idea was that the £100,000 could be taken off any agent if they committed any fraud. Four years ago, the idea was abandoned and, now, all you have to do is get a licence through any national FA. Mine is with the English FA but there is nothing to stop a person getting a licence through any other national FA. And many do. If a Scottish-registered agent does a shady deal with a player in England, the English FA will just say, 'Sorry, nothing to do with us.' And so it goes on."

Player's Agents are currently in the spotlight of a FIFA-UEFA working group. According to UEFA chief executive Lars-Christer Olsson (pictured right), the necessity for monitoring agents is particularly urgent because many of the agents were handling huge financial amounts, or not conducting themselves in the proper manner. "There are agents that are behaving properly, and doing a good job, but there are also agents who are not," he said.

"We have got indications, for example, from some of the governments in Europe that they are afraid that agents were involved in money-laundering and other strange activities. We think there is a need for better control – an agent should perhaps be checked every second year, to know whether they are competent in the job," the CEO continued. "We think that is a reasonable demand – that you should have a certain knowledge about the business you are taking care of," he said.

Following studies, the the working group has developed recommendations in three main areas – access to the profession of agent, activity as an agent and enforcement of rules and regulations on agents. They have been be sent to the UEFA Executive Committee and other bodies for consideration. At the same time UEFA is also making a comprehensive survey of licensed European player agents with the aim of gaining a better understanding of the views of agents, who currently have no representative body at European level.

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