Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
Gordon Taylor and Paul Elliott
15 February 2011
Brede Hangeland has been ill throughout the night and he has had
to apologise for his non-appearance today. I hope you will understand.
Chair: Thank you for that.
In which case, may I welcome to the second part of the session
this morning, representing the Professional Footballers Association,
Gordon Taylor, the Chief Executive, and Paul Elliott, who is a
PFA Trustee. We send our best wishes to Mr Hangeland and hope
he recovers soon.
Q110 Mr Sanders:
A similar question to the last session: how robust do you think
the English Premier League and Football League pyramid structures
By robust, do you mean how can they protect the existence of the
clubs, bearing in mind what we have talked about with the debt?
Mr Sanders: Is there a
danger of fragmentation? Are they secure?
Considering, I suppose, they started with 12 clubs in 1888 and
it never ceases to amaze mebearing in mind the economic
difficulties we have had in the last few yearshow many
full-time clubs we have in this country. It is unique in the whole
world to have 92 full-time clubs and, in addition, in the Conference
as well, over half those clubs are full time. We have the highest
aggregate attendances, we have the highest number of full-time
players, so it would be a little perverse of me to say it was
But, of course, we have probably never had a time
like thisI have been involved as a player and administrator
through very difficult times. The 1980s were terrible times, both
for health and safety reasons, principally when the Government
got heavily involved, and since that time, of course, with the
advent of satellite television and the back-up sponsorship, the
game has never had more income. On the other hand, it has never
had more debt and so we have that dichotomy. But I like to think
when the PFA puts what assets it has at risk when we try to help
clubs through financial difficultiesprobably two-thirds
out of the 92 clubs have had financial difficulties over the last
I never thought we would see clubs in the premiership
have problems but, in actual fact, you can name just on the fingers
of one hand the number of clubs who did go out of existence and
then, of course, even some of them have restructured, got back,
and we have seen the likes of Accrington Stanley and Aldershot
come back. We should not underestimate the great strength of football
in this country and these islands, which is quite unique, and
how much a part of our social fabric they are. So if you said,
"How robust are they?" I would have to say they have
met some big challenges. Those challenges in the 1980s were met
with the help of politicians and the legislators, together with
police and local authorities.
Those tragedies convinced me that sometimes footballif
you remember, I think the Prime Minister at the time blamed football
and football blamed the Prime Minister but the answer to those
problems came about by excellent co-operation between everybody
involved in the game and then also supporters that got themselves
properly organised, Government, police. There was no interaction
between the different police forces. I couldn't believe it. At
the time, they wouldn't give information, and since that time
there now is a national information network. When people said,
"You will never defeat the bad behaviour or the hooliganism
at football, you will never defeat the racism at football",
I have seen football come together with help from people like
yourselves and do precisely that. So there are times when, it
has not just been robust, it has been quite positive with regard
to social life in this country, not least of which, of course,
is its social responsibility programme that is bought into by
both clubs and players.
Q111 Mr Sanders:
You mentioned debt. How serious a problem is debt in the English
Debt is a serious problem for all of us in the world and nobody
is more aware than you are of the debt we have got ourselves into.
I think part of the problem is I have noticed it has been so much
easierI get involved in the local citizens advice bureau
at Blackburn and Darwen and I have seen the massive increases
in debt, the way that we have allowed people to run up credit
cards, to run up debt. On a bigger scale that has been done by
the banks as well so it was almost inevitable. Football is not
an oasis from what is going on out there in society. It reflects
it. So if there is debt out there, there is going to be debt in
football. In dealing with it, you have covered the football creditors
rule and you seem to think that is particularly special to football,
as though we are looking for some actual special vested interest.
It was done with the purpose of trying to keep a club in existence
and its importance to a community and to try and make sure that
the supporters, who didn't run the club, weren't discriminated
against and that the players who had signed in good faith suddenly
didn't find their contracts not worth the paper they were written
on, and to try and make sure that a club could not win a cup competition
or a league on the back of players whom they couldn't afford to
buy or pay. We never had any objection, of course, because we
are all taxpayers, to the Inland Revenue being a preferential
creditor. I think it is just since they have not been allowed
to be that, because of European legislation I believe, that that
particular rule has come under attack.
Q112 Mr Sanders:
Has the number of clubs where the PFA is helping to meet players'
wages increased or is it roughly the same number that there has
been over the last 10 years?
Of course, we did have Portsmouth and we have had a number of
clubs just of late. It has definitely helped since both the Football
League and the Premier League implemented a better relationship
with the Revenue and tighter controls from the centre, which is
what was needed.
Q113 Mr Sanders:
Has the number of clubs you are helping gone down or has the number
of clubs you are helping gone up?
It has gone down, albeit Portsmouth was a massive amount of money
compared with some of the lower Football League clubs. It is all
proportionate. Sometimes £50,000 or £100,000 could cause
a Football League club to really struggle, whereas with Portsmouth
in the Premier League you were talking millions, as we were with
Leeds when they were in the Premier League. What we do in such
a situation is ask the players to hold together, not to walk out
of the club. If they don't get their wages they would normally
be totally free agents to walk out. We asked the players, as we
did with Bristol City 30 years ago, to try and hold together and
agree to defer their monies until the club got out of its financial
problems. Having said that, there were many in the league at the
time, before the Premier League was formed, who said, "Let
them wither on the vine. It's natural evolution." I didn't
think so, because I am a great believer in the history and tradition
of the game and many great clubs now in the lower divisions have
an illustrious history and vice versa, and that is the nature
Q114 Mr Sanders:
I think most football fans would be very supportive of that view.
But as a professional body, at what point do you take a decision,
"We can't keep paying these players' wages"? Do you
have a formula that says, "We can do this for four weeks
and if X doesn't happen that's it", or do you just make up
your mind with each individual case that comes before you?
It's not a cavalier approach. We have lawyers, we have accountants
who will go to the club and look through the books and see whether
it is possible to save it and try and work with them to look at
what measures we can use to save it. We don't have infinite reserves
with the PFA. In fact, the majority of our funds are charitable
funds for hardship, accident and education, so we need to be quite
careful on that. We are a lender of last resort. We try to encourage
the players to defer some of their monies for a period of time
during which we hope the club can get out of trouble, and I have
to say for the most part that has worked.
Q115 Mr Sanders:
Are you currently lending to any League club at the moment?
At the moment there are one or two.
Q116 Mr Sanders:
Have Plymouth Argyle approached you?
Yes, Plymouth have approached us and Plymouth is a club we are
looking to help at the moment and working with the players to
try and do our best to keep that alive, because we don't have
too many clubs in the south west and, goodness knows, we need
to keep them alive. You go down on your holidays and the youngsters
there, they like the Manchester Uniteds and Arsenals but they
also relate to the local club. I think it is important that we
do all we can to keep Plymouth alive; and you think it was Michael
Foot's team, wasn't it?
Mr Sanders: Indeed.
Q117 Dr Coffey:
On debt, you made a submission about gearing being required in
all industries. Is there an element here that leveraged buyouts
are a poor way of trying to own a football club or is it simply
that the tax incentives on a leveraged buyout are perhaps better
for financing a club than the all upfront cost of putting in equity?
Are you referring to my reference to America? We have had certain
problems in this country where there has been big leveraged buyouts
of some of our major clubs
Dr Coffey: Yes.
That situation would not be allowed to happen in the USA where,
as you know, they have different franchises and at times they
even move cities and towns. That doesn't happen in this country;
maybe just once.
Q118 Dr Coffey:
You have made some very interesting comments about liquidity.
I mentioned a limit of 20%, where they talk about a limit of 20%
of leveraged debt, yes. Without being so specifically involved,
I am aware Manchester United need to keep being successful because
there is a big amount of debt and likewise Liverpool found it
hard to service their debt.
Q119 Dr Coffey:
I have a personal perspective about limiting gearing as well,
which would be sympathetic to your general perspective, but you
talk here to some extent about one of the things to follow from
Germany may be about the liquidity. As a former accountant, the
one thing you can guarantee is a forecast is always wrong. How
do you feel that is working?
None of us can see into the future but I think we do, at times,
need to pay respect to Germany, and not just because they keep
beating us at times in international matches. They did have a
time when they didn't achieve the international success that they
wanted to and they had a root and branch approach, to youth development.
There is good co-operation between their national association
and the Bundesliga and they set standards for trying to make sure
that a club could, as we have heard before, at least say they
had a balance sheet that could keep them in existence, to see
them through the season and the next season. They have tried different
approaches. They have emphasised the priority, which is good,
of having full stadiums. They have managed to lower ticket prices
and not affect them badly financially and have full stadiums.
You can never just transplant a culture. Germany
is different. Holland, for a small country, does tremendously
well internationally. You can look at best examples of other countries.
Not too long ago, France was the best example for youth development
and bringing it through. Now that has moved to Spain and then
you see the predominance of Barcelona and Madrid, which is not
necessarily healthy, bearing in mind they do monopolise success
in that country because those two clubs have their own individual
television agreements, which we don't have that in this country.
It has needed support from Parliament at times to
have a collective deal on condition that the Premier League does
give a very significant amount of money to grassroots and, of
course, also to the Football League, albeit in the Football League
we have almost replicated the problem with the Premier League.
There was a time when one club probably had more money from television
than all the clubs of the Football League and now the Championship
is almost becoming a Premier League division 2. So we are finding
the way they split their money80% to the Championship,
12% division 1, 8% division 2is almost now making it hard
for division 1 and 2 clubs to stay in the same ballpark.
Q120 Mr Watson:
Could I ask you about the role of agents? Currently players' agents
are paid by players and clubs. Do you think clubs should be allowed
to pay players' agents?
What has become quite apparent once we had Lord Mawhinney with
us was that to be transparent with regard to what clubs paid agents,
for the Football League initially and then to some extent in the
premiership, is the massive amounts of money. When you think of
the battles the PFA had to get any share of television rights
for its members who people paid to see and sit down and watch
at home, and that that money goes into charitable causes and community
programmes and anti-racism programmes and help for old players,
the PFA's share of that is a drop in the ocean compared to what
has been paid to agents. They have become very much a part of
the game used by clubs. This isn't for me to beat them on the
head. FIFA tried to regulate them and could not; it was put in
the hands of the national associations. We thought we were making
some progress with transparency and the full knowledge for the
player and the club of what offers had been received and what
monies had been received. Now it looks as though it is going to
be open house again.
I am just reminded, the more you try and look into
agents, there was an inquiry into American sport as to whether
they should be governed by national law, state law or by the sport
itself. One of the classic quotes was that they found quite a
number of agents had first class degrees from Harvard and Yale
but there was quite a significant number who had just had the
third degree from the local police. They are in a world that is
very difficult to control. They are attracted by the money in
the game, like they were involved in the film industry and the
I thought we were making some progress with that
transparency and regulation and exams and monitoring by the FA
but it looks as though it is going to be open house if we're not
careful. If you are talking about financial propriety in the game,
the transfer system can be a vehicle for abuse because of the
vast amounts of money and the money that goes on what is called
magic roundabouts. Unless you get transparency with all the people
involved in a transfer, and these days of third party ownership
of registration, some players have about five or six agents involvedso
it's no use me saying it is a clear transparent world. It is a
murky world and the game and FIFA needs to keep a grip on that
and, of course, FIFA needs to keep a grip on a few other things
of that direction. But it is not a time for letting go of a compliance
hold on agents. It is a time to be probably tighter than ever.
Q121 Mr Watson:
So if FIFA and the national bodies have failed in their obligations
to regulate agents, do you think the Government would need to
It is like I was saying about the Government stepping in: you
probably have enough on your plate with legislating on criminal
law and everything else without football agents. Far be it for
me to say, but sometimes it is as a result of Inland Revenue inquiries
and our national media. They can do a job sometimes if there has
been corruption. I think they are either in the game or they are
out of the game. If they are in the game then they need to be
under some form of control. I referred you to the problems of
the 1980s when everybody was passing the buck and it was only
those problems of safety and violence and other problems were
addressed by a combined approach. That approach needed legislation
from this House and, of course, closed circuit television was
massive, but many other areas were brought into play that were
a good sign of how football could work together with Government.
Q122 Mr Watson:
I am going to put a question to you that I am sure you have heard
many times before. It has been said that players' high wage demands
are responsible for the level of debt that clubs carry. Would
you like to address that assertion?
Last Friday afternoon I was answering questions, because the former
Archbishop of CanterburyI think it was George Careysaid
it is up to the bankers and Liverpool players to help Liverpool.
I always find myself on the back foot. The game is about players.
It is the players whom people pay to watch. I don't think anybody
goes to see a film and complains about Brad Pitt's wages, or perhaps
I should talk about a new potential Oscar winner's wages, and
the same if you go to an Elton John concert or a Take That concert.
I have never heard a fan yet say, "It's terrible the money
they get." It is a question of they either pay it or they
I am amazed at the money that television pays football
but, on the other hand, football has been good for television.
The price is higher than what you would necessarily want to make
sure people who are unemployed could go there but they seem to
keep people coming. It is a very short career; an average eight-year
career. We lose 50 players a year with permanent injury. People
seem to forget that they pay over half their money, in spite of
the factand a limited number of players have image rights
and because they have an image in their own right, particularly
the Beckhams, of course, and maybe the Wayne Rooneys, but that's
a very small percentage. The vast majority are on a pay-as-you-earn
system and will be paying more than half the money back to the
It is not for me to say but when you talk about bankers
getting bonuses, people seem to forget if they get the bonuses
over half of that is going to come back to the Treasury. It is
the same with footballers. I just think every labourer is worth
his hire. They don't hold a gun to clubs' heads; they never have
done. When in the past out of about 70 clubs where there has been
financial problems and there were no wages on time and those players
could have walked out for free and got another club, they held
together for the sake of the club. At times they don't get acknowledged
for their loyalty. When everybody says they were loyal in the
old days, I'm not having a go at the players before the maximum
wage was removed. They were loyal because there was no incentive
to move, because if you moved to another club you were on the
same wage. It is only since the likes of Bosman has happened that
there has been a greater mobility--an average probably three years
at a club now.
Q123 Chair: Paul,
you had a very distinguished playing career; what is your view
Paul Elliott: I
think football is like a lot of other businesses insofar as always
the top half or the top 1% always earn the big money. Whether
you are playing basketball, baseball, or tennis, it is all relative.
Footballers are getting commensurate to their values and what
they bring, because ultimately they drive the values. Everybody
fills stadiums, whether it is 75,000 at Manchester United every
week down to 60,000 at Arsenal and so on, to watch the best people
and the entertainers. Football is a global sport and I have to
endorse what Gordon was saying. I myself as a player, having played
at the various highest levels, was one of those players who came
out of the game through injury.
The PFA has been very instrumental in that because
we talk about the 1% but are we talking about the 95% of kids
that come into the game at 16; at 18 they don't even get a professional
contract. Less than 5% of those are still in the game at the age
of 21. So we are talking about the ones who are at the outstanding
level and the risk of injury is extremely high and their average
lifespan within football is from eight to 10 years. As a former
footballer, I suppose every now and then I have a thought at the
back of my head, "Maybe I should have sued my mother and
father because the timing wasn't quite right." But realistically,
as a professional footballer, I wish footballers all the best
because I have heard of stories where things have gone wrong for
many of them and they have been bullied out of football clubs.
They have not had the support that they would have liked to have
had, for young players. I think it is so important. There are
so many intangiblesthat is the point I am trying to makeat
all levels of the game, so those that get to the very top and
stay there, they are very dedicated, they are very focused, they
make a colossal contribution back into the community. They set
up their own foundations and they have a tremendous consciousness
about what is going on in this country.
I think that is exemplified if you look at the PFA
and the 4,000 existing members that they have but also about 50,000
that they serve outside of the game and over the last two years
over 25,000 community visits all over the country in a number
of areas: crime, drugs, anti-racism. So, everyone wants to talk
about the salaries, and I understand that, but equally, as well,
you have to look at the other areas where they make a commensurate
positive contribution, too.
The PFA doesn't work just for what is good for players and see
a club go out of existence. We are one body that has been determined
to try and keep clubs alive. We are obviously conscious that they
not only employ our members but many other people as well. Everybody
talks about salary caps and it is about wages of the players.
The game is about the players, but a club like Manchester United
manages to attract some of the finest players in the world and
yet, of course, keeps its salary levels to below some 50% to 55%
, I believe, and manages to manage perfectly adequately.
Q124 Mr Watson:
Can I ask about the governance arrangements to provide new protections
for the pressures that modern players find themselves under? They
are not just on the back pages for what they do on the football
pitch. They are on the front pages for their private lives. They
are in the financial pages for their financial arrangements. Do
you think the current governance arrangements in football adequately
protect players and is there more that can be done to give them
What we are finding in this day and age is probably young men
who are a little bit cocooned. You have heard about youth development
and a club can approach a youngster virtually in the cradle now,
from eight and nine and all the way up to 16 before they can join
a club full time. That worries me a great deal because there are
so many things that can happen with growing up even before they
have reached adolescence.
As Paul said, all I know is that of the 600 who join
at age 16 we will lose 500 by the time they are 21. Those youngsters
are disillusioned, their parents are disillusioned; they need
picking up, they need looking for alternative careers. We provide
that but if there is going to be a lot more emphasis and money
spent on these nine, 10 and 11-year-olds and the 16-year-olds,
we want to see a better success rate, otherwise there has to be
a much better exit route, that these youngsters are guaranteed
a career outside of football as well, otherwise there is going
to be a big wastage and a great deal of disillusionment.
In cocooning them, every youngster they get is told
he is going to be the next John Terry, David Beckham, Wayne Rooney.
Their parents are convinced and, of course, life does not work
like that. It is a good thing but the PFA has taken on the responsibility
of educating them, together with the Football League and the Premier
League. Life skills--the more money these youngsters have, they
can have problems, addictive problems. So, it is life skills.
It is preparing them psychologically. There is a lot more effort
given to psychological care of these youngsters and the pressure
on them. I am not saying they would swap it, it is a great life.
But exactly what you say, it needs a lifestyle programme and clubs
need to accept that if they are going to spend thousands of hours
on trying to make them footballers, you can't succeed with every
one and there has to be a great deal of time and effort on trying
to keep them as human beings and contributing, because football
is such a short career even if they make the grade.
Q125 Mr Watson:
How many of your members have told you they thought they had their
Right, that is a bit of a switch. I'm not sure what that has to
do with the governance of football but the fact of it is that
the media, as you know full well, this Committee, is interested
in all the lives of footballers because they are the new celebrities.
I mentioned film stars and pop stars, but probably footballers
and the likes of David Beckham and his wife get on the front page
as much as the back page. Let's just say I am aware of very intensive
media scrutiny of them, as you will see when people are encouraged
to tell tales about footballers and are offered payment for it.
It is part of that life skills programme that we try and give
to our youngsters to make them aware of what is happening away
from the pitch on a 24-hour basis, to be very mindful and to be
Q126 Mr Watson:
So the responsibility to protect privacy or for players to conduct
themselves and take extra precautions to protect their privacy
would lie with the PFA or with the
No, the PFA can't be responsible for everything. Every individual
is responsible for himself to some extent. But there are parents
there, there is family there, there is his club there. The club
and the manager are a big influence because they are at that club
every day, and a lot of clubs do. Some people say footballers
don't associate with the supporters like they used to and it is
perhaps not surprising because they feel quite exposed and vulnerable
because of that stronger world from the media and the stronger
Q127 Mr Watson:
Have you given guidance to members on how to guard against phone
hacking, or would that be a club responsibility?
Well, both really. It's both. It is a responsibility of the club
and the individual, any advisers he has in lawyers, and also from
the PFA as well, yes.
Q128 Mr Watson:
Did David Beckham have his phone hacked?
You have to ask David Beckham that.
Mr Watson: Has he told
Chair: I think we are
going to move on. This is not an inquiry about phone hacking
Mr Watson: No, it is about
governance of football and that we need to protect the privacy
Certainly when he was so-called "kidnapped" the cameras
were there, weren't they, so
Mr Watson: So it is possible?
Everything is possible these days with the technology we have,
Q129 Jim Sheridan:
I apologise because I will have to leave soon as I am meeting
the Speaker. Gordon, you referred in your opening comments to
the question of racism in the game in the 1980s and 1990s. I would
like to put on record my recognition for what Paul did in Scottish
football in trying to address the question of racism in football.
It is not perfect but a million times better than where we were
before Paul came. Perhaps this is a naive question, Gordon, but
millions of workers depend on trade unions recognising or negotiating
on their behalf. What is the difference between footballers simply
because of the money they earn? Just finally, I know that you
said that the major grounds are full and no one is twisting their
arms to go in there but I would argue that there are an awful
lot of people at a lower income level that are excluded from the
game, particularly the top game, because of the prices.
I agree with you and I get very worried at the priority of professional
sport. We need supporters and we need them live and if our grounds
are not full there is nothing worse coming over on television.
When Italy had a situation where it had individual clubs doing
individual TV deals and they showed so many live games virtually
of every club, that then affected the attendances and to see big
empty spaces, suddenly television is not quite as interested,
neither is the armchair supporter. The atmosphere is not there.
That is the one of the areas with our community programmes that
we have tried to make sure they look to accommodate the unemployed,
particularly those less fortunate members of a local communityit
is not just a business but within that business concept and knowing
they have to break evento try and make sure the stadiums
are full and make sure we educate a generation of youngsters,
if they are not playing the game, to at least be watching the
game in the future, otherwise we have no divine right to be the
major spectator sport or participant sport. So I do agree with
Jim Sheridan: I think
at a previous session we were told that the
Sorry, a lot of clubs are mindful as well, to be fair, and will
give special reduced prices for different graded games.
Q130 Jim Sheridan:
We were informed that not many young people come through the gatesI
think the average age was 45 years or something.
I think part of the price of television is the fact that everybody
could rely on a 3 o'clock kick-off on a Saturday afternoon or
perhaps one midweek game and that has gone. So it is a lot more
Q131 Jim Sheridan:
Why can't trade unions do what the agents already do and so keep
the money in football?
I am all in favour of that. The only thing is sometimes when we
have been asked by parentsand we have handled many top-quality
stars of today when they were youngstersthey get door-stepped
and they get offered things that the PFA couldn't do because it
would not be within the rules, which is a bit in line with what
you were saying with your experiences in Scotland, I think.
Q132 Paul Farrelly:
I just have a couple of questions going back to agents and who
makes what out of player transfers is as important for the reputation
of the game from the infamous quote, "Cloughy likes a bung".
Paul, as a player, do you feel uncomfortable that agents can,
without disclosing it, take a cut from both sides of the deal?
Would you, as a player, feel that they are necessarily acting
in your best interests or their own in that situation?
Paul Elliott: It
is an interesting question. I think you can either look to yourself
personally, because during my own career I always negotiated my
own transfers because I made it my business to get myself educated
and understand about the business. Therefore, I was always confident
enough to represent myself. So, in that scenario, from my perspective
it is hypothetical.
Q133 Chair: Is
that still done or would all Premier League players now essentially
Paul Elliott: I
think there are a lot of players who obviously have agents and
I think there are a lot of very good agents there that serve their
clients very well indeed. Equally, I think it is reasonable to
say that there are players there that don't necessarily need an
agent but would have an accountant or a lawyer, because obviously
they are very intrinsic skills that are very important. Possibly
a player would not understand the legality of a situation but
certainly when it comes to understanding their own values and
what they are worth, I think most players are very comfortable
to articulate that and don't necessarily need a third party to
Q134 Paul Farrelly:
Are there any requirements at the moment for an agent to disclose
to a player what, if anything, he is getting from the other side?
Yes, there were. That is what I was referring to. We have made
some progress and it was that they needed to give full information
of the different offers they had had from different clubs: the
offers made, the wages along with the transfer fee. That is when
we felt we were making some progress, but now it has gone back
a little bit. Having said that, in this country we felt we were
making progress, so whether we could do that on our own remains
to be seen. If we do it on our own and other countries don't do
it then it will be said to be impossible because of the nature
of international transfers. But the points you make are very valid,
how you can properly act for both the club and the player in the
same transaction, but, of course, that has happened and agents
have been paid by both parties.
Q135 Paul Farrelly:
I am asking because this is about governance and governance is
all to do with reputation in the game. In the City of London it
is frowned on but not necessarily unusual for people to take fees
from both sides, but the Takeover Code, for instance, will enforce
disclosure. The Guy Hands case with EMI in court recently, most
of the controversy was about taking a cut from both sides. But
do you think disclosure is enough?
I think transparency and disclosure is enough, and from that point
of view that is the case with most things in business.
Q136 Paul Farrelly:
What about penalties then to make it worthwhile people being truthful
in their disclosures?
That needs a good compliance unit. Everybody said, "Why don't
you monitor it at the PFA" and this and that, but it is such
a world. It involves almost a fulltime squad. The banks obviously
got in big trouble, didn't they? There was supposed to be the
Financial Services Authority. They were fulltime. So you definitely
need a fulltime unit looking at the activities of agents. But,
as I say, it is mainly at times of re-signing contracts or a transfer
from a club. Part of the problem that FIFA has not grasped the
nettle of is there was a great uncertainty over the validity of
transfer fees. This was part of the discussions.
We were involved with the Worldwide Players Organisation,
FIFPro when Andy Williamson referred to the European Commission
and FIFA and transfer fees and the fact that it is quite unusual
for a player to go for more than the value of his contract, and
that happened. So, as a result there is a great opportunity for
corruption with transfer fees and that is probably the time when
there should be the most transparency, particularly with the registration
of a player at a club in certain countries in South America, for
example, whereby the value of a player, his registration, is owned
by a third party who is prepared to put some money into the club
on a short-term basis. But, of course, when the player's value
increases, that value is all down to this third party. In that
instance, in the Tevez and Mascherano case, it looked bad from
the start and it never got any better. I think that is one area
where the game needs to be properly governed because, you are
quite right, the transfer system is one that needs to be transparent
and illuminated because the opportunities for corruption with
the amounts of money involved are very big.
Q137 Alan Keen:
I just want to make a point. I think we were in danger before
of people comparing footballers with bankers. It is not the players
who decide how much money they are paid; it is the club who have
their contracts. The bankers are using, in many cases, our money
to pay themselves. So there is no comparison to players.
Well, especially now we own quite a few of them, don't we?
Alan Keen: Yes, but we
are still not making decisions, the players are not making decisions
No, exactly; that is what I said. They don't hold a gun to the
club's head and if they did, if they don't have the money they
shouldn't be paying it.
Alan Keen: But the bankers
are paying themselves. They are making the decisions.
Q138 Alan Keen: It is
difficult enough for a committee like this to talk about regulation
even within this country, so it is even more difficult to talk
about the international game as a whole. While we have the opportunity
to have you in front of us, I just wondered how you feel. You
say you feel a great responsibility to players throughout the
world. We are told all the time how proud we should be, and we
are, of the Premier League but how much damage are we doing to
the game of football internationally by attracting the very best
players here? When FIFA made the decision to place the World Cup
in Russia they obviously are trying to do that, and set aside
any dubious reasons they may have, because they want to extend
the game internationally. What concerns do you have, both of you,
as looking after players in this country, about the gravitation
of the wealth that affects the international game?
Yes, I understand. I think it would have been better if FIFA had
come out and said. They would have saved us a lot of money if
they had said, "The purpose of holding a World Cup is to
try and take it to countries that have never had it", albeit
I think we've done enough since 1966 to justify holding it when
you look at the efforts we have made with our stadiums, our safety,
our diversity programmes.
Having been president of FIFPro, the international
players' association, sometimes the feelings and the perception
of the culture and characteristics from different countriesas
you will be aware on your international visitsis quite
true and I think the fact is there is a great deal of envy and
perhaps jealousy at the success of the Premier League, as was
witnessed when you saw the backlash with wanting to take the 39th
game to the rest of the world. FIFA gets its money from international
games, it needs a healthy World Cup and it will say a lot of things
but one of them is, "We have far too many games" and
then organises its own World Club Cup competition because that
is what they have never been able to match, that is why they are
very much involved in international football.
It is natural for FIFA to want that, in any sport
it is natural to want it, and as an administrator it is not good
for there to be a monopoly on success by fewer and fewer clubs
and fewer and fewer countries. So the very fact that some of these
countries are losing their players to here makes it very cosmopolitan
here and with foreign owners as well it means they are not necessarily
going to work for what is best for English international football
because their first priority is their clubs. That is one of the
problems with the Football Association because, while it took
us 100 years to get a seat on the council of the FA, it is run
by the amateur game and the professional game and there is no
accommodation whatsoever on its main board for either the PFA,
the LMAthe League managers with their experienceor
the supporters' organisation and that, I find, is quite offensive
when you think of the initiatives we have brought into the game
that I have talked about and that you are well aware of.
The fact is that every other country in the world
of football actively encourages its former players who are prepared
to stay in the administration of the game. You look at France,
Spain, Germany; they have been very actively involved and they
have been a force for good. From our point of view that has not
happened and that is one area where we can learn a great deal
from the rest of the world. The world perhaps has been looking
at us and seeing how cosmopolitan we are. We have more players
for World Cups in our league than any other country in the world.
That is really going to be hard and what I find is every sport
has a duty to encourage its youngsters to aspire to become that
next generation of top class footballers but the squad of players
available for England has been getting smaller and smaller.
In the same way that the Premier League now are saying
the more hours spent on learning how to become a footballer, you'll
become a better footballer, the same as you would a musician or
what have you, we are having more and more youngsters and players
from abroad and less and less players qualified for England. It
must impact on the success of our international team. That has
been one of the disappointments of my life in football because
I love England to do well. I think there is no reason why you
can't have a healthy club competition, as we do, and have success
for England as well and much more proportionate, considering we
are the wealthiest football country in the world.
Q139 Alan Keen: One final
question. You mentioned the LMA and you have made great strides
towards trying to create a career structure in the game for former
players. We all understand a new manager wanting to bring in his
right-hand man, that is the coach, when he gets a new job and
push the others out, and sometimes they bring in a team of six
or seven when they come in. Can you say more about how along with
the LMA you are trying to do that and the attitudes?
I feel it is sad when suddenly a club's results mean that staff
depend week to week on those results. I was hoping that with a
good youth development programme all the staff could stay in place
but the fact is, of course, they move the manager out along with
his staff these days and I think that is unfortunate for consistency.
Another area is, no matter how much we talk of investment in youth
development and academies and centres of excellence, the fact
is between 18 and 21 there is a glass ceiling that they can't
break through and they won't break through unless there is some
security of tenure by managers because their career depends on
one week's results sometimes. So they never have the courage or
the necessary patience, which is understandable, to put a youngster
in, because a youngster needs to play for a couple of games, take
him out, bring him back in for more, take him out, when they are
getting inundated with agentsthis is one of the good things
of the transfer windowsto buy a ready-made international
player from wherever in the world.
These are big issues for clubs and managers. Clubs
don't always respect management as it should be respected, albeit
the LMA have tried to get qualifications being necessary for the
job. Compensation, it becomes very unseemly when suddenly a chap
is thrust out of work just becauseyou have seen what has
happened at West Brom and a good young manager who has brought
that club up and suddenly hit a bad spell and there is suddenly
no faith and they're out. That is not just West Brom of course;
you name a club, that has been the situation, but there needs
to be a recognition of football management as a proper skill and
Alex Ferguson wouldn't have been as successful as
he has been if his board at the time had been as shortsighted
as some of the other clubs. I can remember Howard Kendall, he
was on the brink as well and then they had some faith in him and
he won the League. You just find those managers, given the chance,
will inevitably produce, and it is like that with youngsters.
We're getting into a world where everybody wants instant success
and it is just not possible. Success needs time and football is
as good an example of that as anywhere else.
Q140 Dr Coffey: On players'
wages and the financing of clubs, in a different industry actors
are starting to take a stake in a film and, if you like, have
a lower salary and benefit in the financial success. You were
talking earlier about loyalty. Players are perceived to be sometimes
disloyal; they can be a hero one week, a Judas the following week.
Is there a role for perhaps part of a player's remuneration to
be related to the financial success of a club and having shares?
Very much so. Paul made the point that it is not just players
who seem to want to go. Often they are encouraged to want to go
by other clubs and often they are encouraged to want to go by
the manager who suddenly doesn't pick them. I had one youngster
who has not had a game for 12 months with a premiership clubthe
squad is that big and they're not getting gamesand that
is just not easy. What you are talking about is there, of course
but, on the other hand, that is why the bookies are rich, you
can't predict sport and you don't know whether you're going to
win or whether you're going to lose. But, on the other hand, it
is a full-time commitment and giving it a full-time commitment
that needs time, that needs energy. They are encouraged to marry
young; they have mortgages; they need a basic wage and they need
to plan for the future. But, in answer to your question, they
get extra money for winning things and if they get relegated we
are not averseand we believe it should happen and now it
is probably not as bad because of the parachute payments, but
when the gap was so big between the Premier League and the rest
we felt it had to be the case that that contract had to be reduced
because of the club's income being reduced. Now the same situation
will arise if a club gets relegated from the Championship to division
1; the drop in its income from solidarity payments and television
will be considerable. But really that is up to the clubs; it is
up to anybody. I don't think anybody minds paying out if money
is coming in; what is hard is paying out more money if you've
failed. It is just like Mr Micawber and Charles Dickens: if your
income is comfortably matching your expenditure, okay, and if
not you know there is a problem. I know maybe some people would
say debt is okay, you wouldn't get debt if you weren't in a strong
position, and football does survive sort of on a wing and a prayer
because the very nature of sport is it is speculative.
As an administrator you want everybody in every league
to feel they have a chance of winning it but sometimes clubs do
need to be controlled for their own good because they do get carried
away. A bit like Toad of Toad Hall, they think they're
going to win and they spend and suddenly they're in big trouble.
That is why it needs a strong Football League and a strong Premier
League to say, "Your spending is getting out of line; you
are not allowed to take on any more players".
In the temporary absence of the Chairman, Mr Tom
Watson was called to the Chair for the remainder of the meeting.
Q141 Dr Coffey: I was
going to ask Mr Elliott from a player's perspectiveyou
just said the role of the PFAwould that be attractive or
would it be risky?
Paul Elliott: I
think if you look at the current ratio generally across the board
of turnover a large proportion of it is obviously made up in salaries
and I think there is a genuine, legitimate case for performance-related
structures. Obviously a player has to have a basic wage but I
think, obviously subject to negotiation, there are grounds to
have a more rounded, inclusive, performance-related structure
that supplements that income and runs alongside that. However,
I think you have to balance that against the player, the stature
of the player, because ultimately I think you have to understand
when we are talking about contracts and we are talking about transfer
fees, signing-on fees, football is a supply and demand business
and you have to accept that clubs are saying if they want the
best player they have to pay the best salaries. I think as an
ex-player, if I was discussing a potential contract with a club,
I know my own worth and I'm doing my optimum and my level best
to optimise my value, that is my right. Obviously looking at it
now, everybody wants to be part of football at all levels. I am
involved in a game at a number of levels from grassroots to the
very top level and you have got young parents sitting around all
wanting them to be the best but the reality is over 95%, 96% don't
even make the grade. I think it is very important to highlight
that point so I certainly would be favouring it.
If I could slightly backtrack to a point that Alan
made, particularly about the World Cup and to reaffirm a point
that Gordon made. I was very fortunate to sit on the board of
the World Cup bid as a non-executive director, and that was predominantly
because of Gordon and the influence that Gordon had in pushing
and promoting myself as a former player who has served the game
at various levels from grassroots to the top of the tree. It is
important to note in this country that we spent a considerable
amount of money on that, the best part of, for argument's sake,
£18.5 million if my maths is correct. What was clearly evident,
there was a number of reasons why we didn't host the World Cup,
politically and otherwise, but I think also as well the process,
there wasn't enough transparency in the whole process from the
outset, and if we are clear on that then obviously we can make
a conscious decision as a board: do we invest in that money or
do we say, "No, we're not going to have a real genuine legitimate
opportunity. We invest that money back into grassroots, back into
CSR, back into women and girls' football, back into the disabled,
back into this country in terms of growing our own and our facilities,
assisting Trevor Brooking and his age-appropriate coaching"?
I'd be happier to have spent the money doing that but it obviously
wasn't the case; we weren't aware of that. I think thereafter
we always said we would always be FIFA's potentially best commercial
partner because of the stakeholders in this game and the Premier
League with the FA were very intrinsic to that.
I think that with the foreign players, one of the
fantastic things that they provide in this country is for young
people to emulate their skills, to see them as role models, to
go into stadiums, because of the emphasis that they have on young
people. As an ex-player, one of the things that I'm very passionate
about has always been about players. One of the main reasons,
I think, why we were unsuccessful in the World Cup was because
there weren't enough footballing people being part of that process.
Michel Platini is a great, great footballing man and on more than
one occasion he said, "I want to talk football with footballing
people." I think it is very important to highlight that point
where players are very, very, very influential.
The players within the PFA have a significant role
to play within the structure of professional football to move
professional football forward. We have a very intangible balance
at the moment between serving the national team; we have looked
at where the national team is on the global level, we have looked
now where we are post-2018 and there is a lot of rebuilding work
to be done among all the stakeholders in this country, because
one of the unique factors is the individual stakeholders, there
are so many. What we need to adopt is a more collaborative process
between all of the stakeholders to ensure that we can challenge
and deal with these issues and, very important, reinstate our
reputation, not just nationally, which we need to do, but I think
internationally with FIFA and with UEFA because there are clearly
fractured historical relationships. I think the structure here
that we are talking aboutthe reform of the governance and
the structure in the gameis a gilt-edged opportunity to
look at ourselves as individually as stakeholders within the Government,
within the PFA, within the Premier League, within the FA.
I think we have a very good chairman in David Bernstein
who has come in and he has shown tremendous leadership very early
on. He is a believer in equality, he is a believer in diversity,
and I think equality and diversity has got to be glaringly intrinsic
to the future of this football, in this game, in this structure
within the FA, because if you look at the game every Saturday,
close to 24% to 25% of the players in the game are all from the
BME, black and minority ethnic. But where is that visibility in
the boardrooms? Where is that in senior management? Where is that
in football administration? Where is that at academy levels? Where
are the women and the girls? Where are the people that sit in
stadiums week in and week out: the disabled, women and girls,
footballers, the people who are big contributors into football?
Where is their presence on the boards, the councils and the committees?
They are the defining issues. I think it is very
important for the FA to modernise and be fit for purpose for the
21st century. The game has got to be far more inclusive, far more
diverse and far more welcoming, because these are the key stakeholders
and there is room for everybody. I think it is important that
we recognise that and have what I call real leadership, collective
leadership, by all the stakeholders to ensure that we are fit
for purpose for the 21st century, inclusive of all the parties
that I've just mentioned.
Q142 Paul Farrelly: Gordon,
last week we had a picture painted for us of Dave Richards, Sir
Yes, Paul, just for one second could I quickly say that with reference
to Alan and yourself, one of the areas where with regard to youngsters
getting a chance and regarding what is sometimes envy of our Premier
League, with regard to the youngsters coming through and giving
them opportunities, sometimes we need rules. Sometimes they will
be challenged by Europe, but one good new rule has been the home-grown
player rule, irrespective of nationality, to have at least eight
out of 25 in your squad. I think that needs to go further and
we should have at least three starting on the pitch and if that
rule is applied throughout Europe it gives a chance to our next
generation to have a chance. I think that is an important rule
that we need your support on.
Paul Farrelly: On governance
at the top and the FA, the picture was painted of the day before
an FA board meeting Sir David Richards and the Football League
rep, they all meet to agree the line. Come the FA board meeting,
the representatives of the amateur game won't vote against them
if they disagree because they know where their bread is buttered,
and that leaves the chairman and chief executive, if they disagree,
without a paddle between them. Hence, there has been the recommendation,
which the Football League in its evidence has supported, of two
independent directors coming in on the FA board. That begs the
question of how are they appointed and who are they appointed
by and what role organisations such as your own might have in
that appointment. But you have advanced a different model. You
have talked about at least representation from sectional interests
on the FA board and you have mentioned at least three: the LMA,
the PFA and the supporters' trusts. What would you like to see
I feel very strongly about that because the Football Association
is supposed to represent all sectors in the game. The game of
football, if nothing else, the players have to be part of that
game, it is about playing the game, and from that point of view
I believe also the record of the PFA in introducing initiatives.
In 1994 we didn't qualify for the World Cup; we found we had just
not been getting enough coaches to coach the next generation.
We developed our own department of coaches. Our department at
the PFA of coach educators is higher than the FA's. In the 1980s,
we developed the initiative of saying to clubs, "You can't
just be somewhere where people will come if you're winning and
won't come as much if you're losing. You need to be a focal point
of community activities." We developed about the behaviour,
about the anti-racism. We have had good ideas that other bodies
have taken on board. We're probably a strong association because
we have been kept out of it but it doesn't make it right, if you
know what I mean. So I say, yes.
The FA is very big insomuch as amateur and professional,
I suppose it is like having your local post office bank with Barclays
Global, but the key factor in there are the players and the mangers.
We have managers who are not mad, they are very dedicated and
they have a lot to offer the game. The football supporters I talked
about in the 1980s got themselves organised. As you will know
from the background, they have combined together. They are trying
to have a voice. They are not lunatics who are going to go to
a boardroom and say, "We demand this, we demand that";
they just care about the clubs.
But if the FA can't accommodatequite seriously,
after 100 years, they gave the PFA a position on the council.
I go because I respect that but I might as well be, to be fair,
a little bit of a nodding dog in the back of the car because there's
an executive committee and there's a professional game board and
we're not on it. If you think we must have an independent person,
well, that would be good if that independent person were somebody
like Paul or the trustees we have, your Chris Powells, your Garth
Crooks, loads of lads.
But I think at least bearing in mind the amateur
game is there, the Football League is there and the Premier League
is there, well, where is the PFA, where is the LMA and where are
the supporters? It is so glaringly obvious it hits you in the
eye. We are so archaic in this country, not just in football but
in other sports, and I said to you sometimes we think we're the
best in the world and hopefully sometimes we will be, but when
you wonder what happened in FIFA you look at every other body.
I go to Wembley because I support every game. Their chairman inevitably
gets up to say, "Thank you for having us" and he's inevitably
a former player who has wanted to stay involved in the game. Everywhere
I go it is a former player involved in administration because
they care about the game and care about the future. I'm not saying
the volunteers don't but I'm saying at least let somebody who
has put their life and soul and body on the line for the game
be involved in the administration. We are blatantly ignored. From
that point of view it is so obvious, if you look for an independent
person who won't have a fraction of some of the experience of
the people sat behind me.
Q143 Paul Farrelly: Okay,
Gordon, it is very good of you to mention an old Stoke City legend,
Garth Crooks, but just to use an analogy, yes or no. To use an
analogy, is your position on the future governance akin to saying
that the unions are on the supervisory boards of German companies,
why shouldn't the unions be on the supervisory board of the Football
Association, of the football game in the UK?
We'll still work for the good of the game but I can't believe
why we are not inside there, as we are with the League and the
Premier League, working for what is good with the Football Association.
It's just so obvious. They need the players for their cup competition
and for England, and it's just so obvious, it's so self-evident,
to worry about which independent people they should have when
they could have people from those sectors of the game and for
once claim to be at least all inclusive. By the way, all those
bodies then would have a collective responsibility to make the
decisions work but those decisions would be better decisions because
they would encapsulate a lot more knowledge in making those decisions.
Q144 Damian Collins:
I just want to touch on the football creditor rule which, as you
know, we covered in the last session, and ask first Paul Elliott,
as someone who has negotiated your own transfers, if the football
creditor rule didn't exist and therefore the club went into administration,
players might have a greater financial risk because they might
lose salaries and monies that are owed to them. Do you think players
would be much more careful about the clubs that they sign for
and whether the wage offers that are made, attractive though they
may be, are realistic and affordable by their club?
Paul Elliott: I
think there would be general consideration financially but I think
first and foremost, as I speak as a former player, I would look
at the club, I would look at the people inside that club, I would
look at the aspirational levels of the club, whether that is consistent
with my own aspiration, and then thereafter obviously you look
at the financial consideration to the club because I have a family,
I have other people, I have dependants that I have to look after.
But that wouldn't be uppermost in my thinking because first and
foremost I'm a professional footballer, I have very big aspirational
levels. You want to play in the best stadium, you want to optimise
and maximise your skills with the best players in the best stadiums,
playing around the country, nationally and internationally. I
personally would certainly look at it from a very professional-minded
aspect first. Thereafter, obviously I'd give consideration to
the financial but ultimately there is a legislation. You have
got to think in terms of business, what is the fallout. If you're
not going to get paid, then there is legislation that protects
the players where the players can go on a free transfer. That
is your worst situation but I have never, fortunately, had to
think like that or be associated with a club that has obviously
been mismanaged in an inappropriate manner. But first and foremost
I would certainly look at it from a professional perspective.
Q145 Damian Collins:
Yes, because the football creditor rule is there to protect the
interests of players and other football clubs in that regard and
a lot of what we have talked about todaythe higher ticket
prices at the grounds, the difficult financial situation of lots
of football clubs, the role of television in the gameall
of that is linked to money and most of that money is going to
players. The machinery of football has created huge amounts of
cash and that cash is being used to pay players.
Paul Elliott: Yes,
and ultimately, if it wasn't for players there wouldn't be spectators
inside the ground, that is the bottom line, and the players are
the highest form of entertainers and we are in a supply and demand
business. If I'm a player and a club is offering me something
that I think is commensurate to my valuewhether it be £100,000
or £50,000, whatever the case isI wouldn't say no
to that. If you were a player you would not say no to the same.
Q146 Damian Collins:
I think it would be wrong if football was being run for the benefit
of the directors of football clubs.
May I just say, Damian, I remember there was a time when there
was a limit on players' wages, up to 1961 since about 1888. There
was massive crowds, multi-millions, 20, 30, 40 million; we didn't
see any great investment in stadiums or wonder where the money
went then, from that point of view.
Q147 Damian Collins:
The purpose of the question is not to say we should go back to
that at all. The question is, to what extent do footballers themselves
share the risks that other people in the game do when they are
the beneficiaries of the way the wage system works?
Footballers would have to share that risk if you decided there
couldn't be a football creditor rule, but what we would do, there
would be no player would ever go to that club again. If it reconstructed,
it would be at the bottom. The supporters would be absolutely
aghast. There would be a terrible loss. Most of those players
at that club would walk out and get another club the next day
but those supporters wouldn't have a club to support and all the
contingent work that is created by that club, with the caterers,
if I go through it all it's almost like match funding, if you
like. There would be a massive loss and it isn't such a bad rule.
Reference has been made to the St John Ambulance
not getting paid. That I can't believe because you see these days
they employ their own people. If St John Ambulance needed funding
I can assure you there is enough millions going from the PFA and
Government and from the Premier League to charities that any local
St John Ambulance Brigade need not worry about its future.
Mr Watson: Thank you.
Gentlemen, on behalf of all the Committee members can I thank
you for a very entertaining session. Gordon, you shared great
insight. Paul, can I also say on behalf of the constituents of
mine in the north-east part of my constituency in West Bromwich,
particularly a Mr Adam Smith, I have to tell you you are a living
legend and I have to say hello to you. So, thank you very much.