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NUFC: Pants on fire

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Newcastle United lied over transfer deals, says tribunal

by David Conn


Newcastle United lied and some of Britain's top football agents misled the Football Association about how they did their deals in order to avoid being caught flouting the rules governing agents' conduct, according to a VAT and Duties tribunal. The tribunal, a legal body, decided last month that Newcastle are not entitled to reclaim VAT on payments made to agents, including some of the game's biggest names, in 21 deals between 2001 and 2003.


The tribunal found that on forms which must be lodged with the FA to register transfers and new contracts, Newcastle United "falsely stated" that the agents had acted solely for the club, and not for the players. Newcastle did this, according to Russell Cushing, the club's chief operating officer and a director of the football club, "to avoid fouling the rule that an agent can only act for one party on a transfer".


In his evidence, Cushing said that the rule, established by football's world governing body, Fifa, and maintained here by FA, is routinely broken. He argued that the agents had in fact acted for both Newcastle and the players on the same deals. "It is generally acknowledged," Cushing said, "that the rules cannot accurately reflect the global business we now operating in."


In order for the FA to accept that the deals were within the rules, Newcastle stated on the forms that the agents had acted for the club, according to a written agreement, and not acted for the players. The tribunal found this was "false", that the agents were in fact the players' exclusive representatives, and that no written agreements with the club existed.


The agents, who did not declare to the FA that they had acted for their players, were said by the tribunal to be: "In breach of the [Fifa] regulations, having failed to adhere to the Code of Professional Conduct, by behaving untruthfully".


The judgment illuminated more than has ever previously been known about how clubs and agents do deals. Cushing admitted that forms Newcastle completed were "technically incorrect".


Newcastle told The Guardian they intend to appeal the judgment. The FA declined to comment.



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