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Page last updated at 21:53 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Youth boss Thelwell slams agents

Gael Kakuta
Gael Kakuta joined Chelsea from French side Lens in 2007

A leading academy boss has criticised football agents who use websites such as Facebook to attract potential stars.

Wolves Academy boss Kevin Thelwell told BBC's Sport Wales programme that agents are "preying on vulnerable people".

Thelwell says soccer chiefs should clamp down on agents using sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Bebo.

He said: "It's something I'd like the Football Association, the Football League and the Premier League to look at very carefully."

Thelwell, a former director of coach education with the Welsh Football Trust, said: "Everyone is trying to find a niche market to be able to attract the best potential talent earlier.

"That might involve Facebook and it might involve another way of communication. There are people out there who are trying to do that for their own benefits."


Thelwell's comments come amid the poaching storm that has engulfed the Premier League in recent weeks.

Chelsea were banned from buying players until January 2011 after being found guilty of inducing Gael Kakuta to break his contract with French club Lens in 2007.

Fifa are also investigating claims from French club Rennes that Manchester City unlawfully signed 17-year-old player Jeremy Helan.

The club say Helan was bound through a pre-contract agreement. The Premier League side have denied any wrongdoing.

And Welsh football was drawn into the row after Manchester City dipped into Swansea City's youth ranks to capture Wales Under-17 midfielder Emyr Huws.

Swansea are now fighting for compensation for Huws after spending five years developing him.

Thelwell told Sport Wales that some agents are using underhand tactics to broker deals between young players and clubs.

Normal practice for agents looking to do a deal is that they would involve the player and the player's parents with the full knowledge of his parent club.

I think we also need to understand that youth football is big business nowadays

Kevin Thelwell

Thelwell said: "They're not all bad people - there are some very good agents who do an excellent job.

"However, I think we also need to understand that youth football is big business nowadays.

"Agents are talking to players as young as 14, 15, 16 years of age and that can be quite unsettling for parents and players who maybe don't know things operate properly.

"And once those boys come under the control of some agents or some other clubs then they can become extremely unsettled.

"To my mind, it's preying on vulnerable people.

"I've come across lots of examples where boys have been completely unsettled and find it very difficult to regain form."

European law prevents players from signing formal contracts tying them to clubs before their 16th birthday.

That means clubs are in danger of losing players to rival teams when they reach 16.

Bluebirds academy boss Neal Ardley said clubs are in danger of missing out on millions of pounds in potential transfer fees if top young players are lured away by bigger clubs before they've signed professional contracts.

"We sold Aaron Ramsey to Arsenal for £5m - rightly so because that was what he was worth," said Ardley.

"But had he been poached from us before we could offer him a pro contract, we probably would've got a six-figure sum for him - maybe £100,000 or £150,000. A massive difference.

"And the academy wouldn't have been able to say that we produced a player who's played 30 or 40 games for our first team."

*Watch the full report on Sport Wales, Friday, 30 October, BBC TWO Wales, 2100-2130 GMT

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see also
Man Utd in clear over Pogba deal
07 Oct 09 |  Man Utd
Chelsea chief defends Kakuta deal
08 Sep 09 |  Chelsea
Man City dismiss 'poaching' claim
08 Sep 09 |  Man City

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