Fergie & Son

It’s almost ten years now, since the above programme was screened on BBC3.

Did you ever catch it, at the time? Stirring stuff. There are still excerpts from the programme available on YouTube. See if you can spot your intrepid author!

See this link to an article that provides further, interesting, background.

Surely, you would ask yourself, a man of Alex Ferguson’s reputation and stature would not have become embroiled in such shenanigans? Ask again.

Furthermore, you could be forgiven for reasoning that if a man of Sir Alex’s standing can seemingly (knowingly?) flout football’s regulations, then what sort of signal did that send out to other club managers? And that was ten years ago!

For those of you who may have missed the programme, and it’s subsequent re-screening, the basis of the story revolved around the activities of Sir Alex’s (unlicensed) football agent son, Jason - particularly within the secretive confines of Manchester United F.C. One of the many poignant issues raised by the researcher and interviewer, Alex Millar, was in regard to the extent of the involvement of Ferguson Snr. - both in respect of deal negotiations and client procurement (the programme was able to show that eleven players, currently then on Manchester United’s books, were clients of the Elite Sports Agency, the company which Jason Ferguson worked with). Alex Ferguson never sued the BBC.

Still doubtful that such things actually go on? You might want to pick up a copy of Michael Crick’s unauthorised Ferguson biography (“The Boss: The many sides of Alex Ferguson”) and check out, amongst many other interesting and revealing passages, the part that deals with the “tapping up” of the goalkeeper Jim Leighton, when he was still a contracted and registered player with Aberdeen FC. While you’re in the bookshop, check out “Broken Dreams” by Tom Bower. Fascinating.

Even though Sir Alex refused to speak to the BBC for the best part of seven years, I’m not aware of any legal challenge, to date, by Sir Alex’s lawyers, against the organisation. Similarly, Mr Ferguson has mounted no legal challenge against any of the content of Michael Crick’s book. Draw your own conclusions from the facts.

Keep in mind that, in the world of football agency - where the transfer of the right player to the right club can sometimes earn the deal-broker upwards of a million pounds alone - there’s bound to be greed, and there’s bound to be corruption.

To focus on a relatively recent example, a distinctly unsettling set of circumstances appeared to surround the matter of the high-profile Jaap Stam transfer from Manchester United to Lazio, in August of 2001 (interestingly, it’s alleged that Stam fell foul of Ferguson as a result of a veiled allegation in Stam’s “autobiography” - that Mr Ferguson had made an illegal approach for him - when Stam was still contracted to his former club in Holland).

Can we realistically expect all the facts of such dealings to ever be laid bare, when Manchester United’s very investigation into the matter was conducted internally?

In my experienced view, it happened something like this: Sir Alex tipped off his agent son Jason, as to Jaap Stam having no future at Manchester United, having seriously irked the Manager. Jason Ferguson, in turn, wheeled his old agent buddy, Mike Morris, into the proceedings to represent Manchester United while he, Jason, quietly commissioned Lazio for his part in the whole complex affair. Done deal.

Therefore, in terms of the Elite Football Agency there is the possibility that they, Jason Ferguson and Mike Morris, accumulated almost a million pounds of aggregated commission out of the overall deal. We’ll never know the whole truth.

Here’s the begging question: how was the £700,000, allegedly paid to Mike Morris by Manchester United for his involvement in the deal, ultimately apportioned? We can but wonder.

It has been shown, beyond reasonable doubt (otherwise, again, we would surely have seen a legal challenge from the Ferguson camp), that Ferguson Snr. verbally bullied certain of the younger members of the Manchester United playing staff into signing with Ferguson Jnr’s agency, rather than – in one particular example - with Mel Stein’s agency. Why should we then be naïve enough to believe that the subject of Jaap Stam’s availability for transfer would not have surfaced at the family Sunday dinner table? The only ones ultimately being “roasted” are the fans.

So, in summary, the Fergusons have demonstrated that if you’re big enough, successful enough – and bullish enough – within our so-called beautiful game, then there’s a fair chance you can get away with anything, with little more recompense than a cautionary slap on the wrist, from football’s limp authorities.

Football’s governing bodies (The FA, The Premier League, etc) are gloriously and historically inept in their flaccid attempts to redress the game’s real wrongdoings.

The final irony? All those poor misguided legions of Manchester United fans - publicising their undying allegiance, from the terraces, to Alex Ferguson - might question why it was then costing so much to purchase their annual season tickets.

Aye, as my learned friend Gavin would say, it’s not money that’s the root of all evil - it’s the love of money that’s the root of all evil. Gareth Bale would quietly agree.