Leeds United chairman Ken Bates is anything but a wallflower and will speak his mind.
His comments about the trade in mid teen footballers in Europe to the top clubs is outspoken and justified. Sensationally FIFA slapped Chelsea with a two window buying ban for their stealing of a young player, Gael Kakuta from French club SC Lens. Bates,who lives in tax exile in Monaco, used to be chairman of Oldham Athletic and then 21 years at Chelsea. He sold the latter to Roman Abramovich and since won a £5 million compensation claim against The Blues after they lured two 16 year olds, Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo from Elland Road three years ago. The evidence: Academy coach Gary Worthington had left the Leeds United Academy to join Chelsea, but still used his LUFC cell phone, where the bill and the evidence, including many phone calls to the youngsters, appeared.
More recently Manchester City who spent £200 million in the last transfer window, are accused of poaching two 14 years olds from Leeds United. City first of all recruited Andy Walsh the Leeds academy director and then brought Louis Hutton and George Swan over the Pennines. All they offered United was £30,000 for one and £40,000 for the other boy, despite promising futures and past investment at the academy.
Today the PFCC (Professional Football Compensation Committe) will determine another case, that of Like Garbutt, captain of England U 17's who was recently lured to Everton F.C.f rom Leeds United. Another youngster at the Leeds United Academy at Thorp Arches, 14 year old Elliot Kebbie has signed with Leeds despite offers from Everton and Manchester United. Of course manager Simon Grayson, a former player at Elland Road, who was himself poached from Blackpool FC mid season, wants promotion from Division One to The Championship and then back to the English Premier League, so that players will be able to play top class football at Elland Road. Last Saturday their U 16 boys team beat Manchester United 4-1.
Chelsea will not be allowed to buy any players until 2011 if the FIFA ban stays. They have the right to apeal to The Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland. Roma were given the same punishment, and on appeal the 'sentence' was halved, after they had signed Philippe Mexes.
Today Le Havre appealed to FIFA about their former academy player Paul Pogba, who joined Manchester United. It is alleged that his mother was paid £300,000 and his father another £300,000 plus a house. I have visited the excellent Le Havre Academy a couple of times. Frank Arnesen, Danish Director of Football at Chelsea was previously with Tottenham Hotspur, and he has been accused by many of improper recruitment of youngsters.
Le Havre are now in League 2 but are the oldest club in France. Their President Jean-Pierre Louvel says that with an annual turnover of only £12 million, they spend £5 million on their academy. Fiorentina of Serie A also complain that their young star Michele Fornasier was snatched away to Old Trafford. He was 16 years old and not under contract because pre-contract agreements do not exist in Italy. "They are like Japanese fishing trawlers, just sweeping up everything in their nets," says Bates . "Right now these boys are just being traded like horsemeat." Kakula's parents say they were offered a signing on fee of £1 million, plus a £30,000 a month contract. His agent Roger Boli, a former player with Lens, Walsall and Bournemouth says "The deal was right for the time".
In 2005 Chelsea signed at least 14 young prospects from England, Portugal, Italy and Denmark. Many faded away or were traded to lower division clubs. At the moment FIFA does not allow young players to sign contracts for more than 3 years.