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Football: FACE TO FACE: COLIN GORDON: Some people don't do a great deal of work to make their money... football has attracted a lot of undesirables; They are often blamed for the state of football today but ex-Blues star turned agent Colin Gordon tells IAN CLARKSON it's not all their fault...

Byline: IAN CLARKSON

COLIN Gordon enjoyed a professional football career that spanned 11 clubs, including a stint at Birmingham City in the late 1980s -but now he is becoming increasingly disturbed at what he is seeing unfold before him.

Since his playing days ended at Leicester City, the Stourbridgeborn centre-forward has become one of football's top agents.

The 41-year-old has run the Key Sport Agency for the past five years along with former Scotland international John Colquhoun, and has been an agent for seven.

Agents as a breed are, of course, much maligned and harangued from almost all quarters as moneygrabbing pariahs leeching off the talents of players and bleeding clubs dry.

But while Gordon admits that football needs to clean up its act, he refuses to accept that the blame lies with agents alone.

He is certainly not one to pull his punches on the current state of the game and some of the people involved in it.

'You can't just bring undesirable people into the game,' he said.

'If football was straight they wouldn't have anywhere to go. Perhaps they were invited in because it suits certain people in the game.

'That is at all levels. It starts with scouts pushing players who have been recommended to them for their own gain. It goes on to coaches, managers, directors and chairmen. It is questionable throughout.'

Gordon has seen at first hand just how far greed and incompetence have ensured how a game that was awash with money is now regularly handing out the begging bowl.

The straight-talking Gordon believes that the game has attracted the wrong sort of people because of the huge amounts of money that can be earned and the associated fame that being an agent can bring.

'Some agents like to be seen in players' lounges and out with players,' explained Gordon.

'It gives them a certain credibility. That attracts people to the job and, let's be honest, the majority of them are failed footballers.

'It is their way of having a professional football career without ever playing the game.

'Some people don't do a great deal of work to make their money and football has attracted a lot of undesirables. However, people have attracted them because it suits their own ends.

'I would like to see a line drawn and to start again. But to do that you would need to have correct policing of the game. It is all right saying 'stop it', but these people won't.

'You need to hit them hard and say 'we know, or we have strong suspicions so stop now'.

'The people who police the game could have the power to hit them hard -I wouldn't be surprised if someone ended up in jail.

'We could be talking about fraud or serious tax evasion. Where is the money going? It isn't going to the Inland Revenue.'

Gordon believes that some agents get unnecessary criticism when, in fact, it is football itself that is at fault.

And he believes that he has seen the situation worsen during his time in the job.

'It has got far worse in the last seven years,' he said. 'People used to say 'there will be a drink in it for you'. Now there's a villa in it for you! Or a certain amount of cash and it stinks to high heaven.

'There is no question that there have been some deals that I have been involved in where the chairman or chief executive has said to me beforehand 'what are your fees?'.

'What they want is for me to go 'great. I have got to make sure he comes here'.

'There is often the intimation that if you move the player somewhere then you will be looked after and all that nonsense.'

But Gordon is more concerned about what is the right move for his client.

And, without mentioning names, he describes how he lost a good player last season when the staggering amount of money on offer from football came before common sense. 'He was quite a shy boy who had played a few first-team games and was set for a big move,' he said. 'Club A came in for him and I said: 'He can't go there as the manager is getting all sorts of abuse, our player is shy and the team are struggling -he will get absolutely murdered.

'If he does well they will never sell him because they aren't a selling club and it is going to be a high-pressure environment'. 'Club B, also from the Premiership, came in for him as well and that would have been perfect, as they sell their players on and it was a lot less pressured. The team was doing well and their manager was fantastic at working with young players.

'I went to see the player's dad and said 'he has got to go to Club B'. I took him down to talk to Club B, but he paid lip service to it and we had a row and I told him not to go to Club A.

'Lo and behold the kid goes to Club A for three times the salary. His dad then rang me up and said: 'I don't want you to the deal'.

'The kid has hardly played a game and he is on too much money for anyone to resurrect his career.

'His dad acquired a more friendly agent to help him conclude the deal, but for the sake of the player and the way he was he should have gone to the other club.'

However, it is not only greed that Gordon is furious with, but the crass incompetence shown by clubs in dealing with transfer fees. He describes the time he received a phone call from a Premiership manager who asked what was happening with one of his players as he would be interested in signing him.

Gordon went to see him and an almost comical scenario unfolded. 'I went to see him at his club and he said that he would offer Club A x-number of pounds for the player,' said Gordon. 'So he offered me the use of his phone and I rang up Club A's chief executive and said: 'We've been trying to sell this player all summer and we have got an offer of x -I think that's as good as we're going to get.' 'The Chief Executive said: 'Hang on, I've got someone on the other line offering double that.' 'I told the manager and he said: 'That might be a bit too rich for us.' All of a sudden in walked his chairman and said: 'I've agreed the deal.' 'Unbeknown to the chairman he was bidding against himself!'

Gordon, who can include Steve McManaman, Hidetoshi Nakata, David James, Chris Kirkland, Peter Whittingham, Callum Davenport and Gary Birch among his clients, also pulls no punches regarding the role of the Football Association.

He believes the FA are making mistakes on a regular basis, and have been shown up over the situation regarding England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.

'The FA are a group of wellintentioned people such as Mark Palios, but they have handled the Eriksson situation poorly,' said Gordon. 'He had two years left on his contract and what if he lost all three games in Euro 2004? He has just given him a big pay rise.

'The only way you can judge if a country has improved is at a major championship and if he does well in Portugal reward him -if not he will probably get sacked.

'Football has been outmanoeuvred and out-negotiated by people on my side of the table to the point where they have got themselves into bankruptcy.'

As Gordon has brokered some big deals in football it is a safe assump-tion that he has made far more as an agent than he ever did as a player. However, with his training and experience, as well as a full playing career, he feels that his company is more qualified than most to aid footballers.

'If I went to a solicitor and he knew nothing about law I wouldn't use him,' continued Gordon. 'John and I spent many years in the industry building up a reputation and we don't want to lose it. We won't recommend players who aren't good enough. We won't waste anyone's time and we won't do anything for short-term financial gain.

'There is enough money to be made legitimately. We run a very successful company and manage to avoid the seedier side of football. 'There are one or two decent agents who I like who have football backgrounds, but the big com-panies I wouldn't give tuppence for. Football is an industry and there are no experts in our indus-try. Deloitte and Touche come out occasionally and say this club has got a lot of money and this one hasn't -well congratulations for stating the obvious!

'Tell me why such a club hasn't got any money. Tell me why certain managers, chairmen or chief executives have got assets far outweighing any money they have ever earned. Tell me where the money has gone. Don't tell me that Manchester United are the richest club in the world. Where are the experts?

'Agents aren't protected either. I have lost the best part of pounds 700,000 from clubs going into administration. No-one ever worries about that!

'I employ people and that puts their livelihood at risk, but I will take that as part of the game. I just wish clubs wouldn't put themselves in a stupid position.' One of the many accusations lev-elled at agents is that clubs are now expected to pay part of their fees, rather than their players. But Gordon insists that the rules are quite clear. 'In effect the player does pay the agent,' he explained. 'If I am moving one of my clients via a transfer the club may take the burden of my client's fees. 'It basically comes out of the same pot and the player is fully aware. He has a contract to me saying that a proportion of his salary will go to me for managing him. 'We only get paid when a player moves and you might have aplayer for four years and not earn a penny out of him.

'In some instances you will broker a deal and you will work just as hard for the club because you want your client to join them. There is an issue there where you are working for the club to help your client to go there. You have to be open and honest and declare your interests straight away.'

One of Gordon's biggest concerns for the game he loves is that young players are being led astray by unscrupulous characters.

He hears plenty of horror stories surrounding the vultures who circle football's top talent and he sounds a warning to all parents. 'There are kids being approached at the ages of 15 and 16 and they are collecting agents like fashion accessories,' continued Gordon. 'I don't think you will stop kids getting agents at that age, but they shouldn't be signed to them and should act only in an advisory capacity.

'There are players in unbreakable contracts with agents who just sit there and wait for things to happen for them. Every player should have a one-month release clause and if they don't want to stay with you then that is it.

'Parents have got to do their homework and their research. Don't go on the strength of a company's client list. That doesn't say whether they are qualified to look after your lad.

'The best people to judge whether or not agents are trustworthy is mums. They have an unbelievable intuition with regard to kids and I would back their intuition above anything. We don't take any money off our players until their second professional contract.

'Every club has the right to offer what they think is right and I wish it would go back to the old system when everyone got pounds 20 a week because at such a young age you can't tell.

'You have to act as a mentor to these kids and help them through the downs and keep their feet on the ground through the ups and advise and support them.

'You have to realise there are always two sides to every argument as players will often say the manager doesn't like him or is not playing him in the right way when truthfully the fault lies a lot closer to home than that and you have to be prepared to tell him.

'The only constant in a young player's career is his advisor. They will change clubs and coaches and you have to have an affinity with them. You need to help them fulfil their potential.'

CAPTION(S):

EXPERIENCED: Colin Gordon is now an agent after playing for clubs including Blues, below left, under Dave
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 4, 2004
Words:2155
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