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New plea for inquiry into agents' fees

English football's powerbrokers have been urged to join forces and take the pressure off Manchester United by launching their own inquiry into the sums of money paid to agents.

Amid speculation that the Old Trafford feud between manager Sir Alex Ferguson and John Magnier is about to take a decisive twist, former Football League chairman and influential city figure Keith Harris wants the FA and Premier League to step in to halt the vast sums of cash haemorrhaging out of the game.

Most of the 99 questions posed by Magnier and business partner JP McManus of the United board last week concern payments made to agents in relation to 15 recent transfers and exactly why the club are employing outsiders to help complete the deals.

United responded by launching a thorough internal review of their business practices and revealing they paid £750,000 in agents fees as part of Louis Saha's £12.825million move from Fulham last month.

Like many observers, Harris - a Red Devils shareholder and lifelong fan who advised the club during Sky's ill-fated takeover bid in 1999 - cannot understand why such a huge figure was necessary given Saha's public desire to join the club.

But he does not believe it should be down to United to sort the matter out on their own.

"None of us can understand why United needed to write out a cheque of that size," Harris told BBC Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek programme.

"Agents have now become an entrenched part of the game but if you talk to any club chairman, they have been a blight on the industry for years.

"I can't understand why the percentages agents are paid to effect player transfers are so high. I can't understand why when agents are there to represent players it is the clubs who are paying them and I would also like to know where the money goes when it goes into agents' pockets.

"Each club faces massive competitive pressure and it is human nature that if a player becomes available they feel will help achieve their aims they will go for him.

"But at a time when the game needs more money investing in it, we are faced with the prospect of more money leaving it.

"There are a whole host of questions that need to be answered and I would like to see the FA or the Premiership to sponsor an inquiry to try and unearth exactly how much money is leaking out of the game."
 

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WHAT on earth does an agent do to earn £750,000?

By Tommy Docherty for Manchester Evening News

That's what United had to pay out in the transfer which brought Louis Saha.

The player had already stated he was desperate to join the Reds, so it's not as if an agent was needed to try and talk him into moving.

If the club wants to buy a player, and the player wants to come to the club, why does an agent have to get involved?

Surely the club offer the player a deal, the player tells the club what he wants and they meet somewhere in the middle.

That's probably simplifying it a little, but that is the essence of it.

In a transfer like the Saha one, agents shouldn't be getting £5,000, never mind £750,000.

Agents were just starting to appear in the game when I was manager of United.

I remember saying to one that on a Saturday afternoon he wouldn't be able to head home a corner, or get me a goal from open play, so why should I pay him.

That's why I can understand John Magnier and JP McManus asking why United had to pay so much to an agent. In the end, they are simply protecting their financial interests.

I have been intrigued all week with the saga at Old Trafford. I think it's fantastic.

I've been buying five or six different papers a day to get as much information as possible on the battle between the club, Fergie and Magnier.

And, even though Fergie has now signed his new deal, I think it will still rumble on. Alex has deserved his contract because what he has achieved at United is amazing.

I think he is probably the last of a dying breed.You will never find another manager spending 20 years or so at one club.

But one thing I thought was out of order this week was the involvement of the fans. It has got nothing to do with them.

All they want is success on the pitch. When United lose a couple of matches, you can hear the murmurs start that Fergie is past his sell-by date and should go;a couple of wins later and they want him to stay forever!


By Tommy Docherty for Manchester Evening News
 
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