THE football agent suing Bolton Wanderers and a rival agency for allegedly cutting him out of a transfer nearly seven years ago hopes the court case will give him “closure”.
Tony McGill is accusing Wanderers, their chairman, Phil Gartside, and former manager Sammy Lee of colluding with The Sport Entertainment and Media group (SEM) to complete the £1 million transfer of Gavin McCann from Aston Villa on June 11, 2007, behind his back.
According to Mr McGill, he had verbally agreed to act as agent for Mr McCann and had exclusively secured terms from Villa for the proposed transfer, when the deal was hijacked by unlicensed agent David Sheron, on behalf of SEM.
A seven-day trial will start on Monday at the High Court in Manchester, with Wanderers and SEM accused of two counts of conspiracy, inducing a breach of contract, misusing confidential information, unlawful means/wrongful interference, with SEM also facing a case of unjust enrichment.
Mr McGill also accuses Wanderers of committing quantum meruit, which involves knowingly profiting from someone’s professional services without paying them.
Mr Gartside, Mr Lee and the club’s secretary, Simon Marland, are accused of conspiracy and unlawful means/wrongful interference, while Frank McParland, Wanderers’ director of football at the time, is also accused of inducing a breach of contract.
SEM chairman, Jerome Anderson, Mr Sheron and agent, Jeffrey Weston, will answer the same charges as Mr Gartside, while Mr Sheron also allegedly induced a breach of contract.
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Mr McCann is not involved in this case as the midfielder agreed an out-of-court settlement with Mr McGill in September, 2009.
A pre-trial review was held on February 28, and amendments to the claims lodged by Mr McGill will be discussed on Monday before the trial begins, according to the court.
Mr McGill said: “After six years I am relieved that finally a court will be able to make a decision on this and I will be able to get some closure.
“I look forward to hearing my questions answered.”
In court documents, seen by The Bolton News, Mr McGill says he agreed verbally to represent Mr McCann on April 6, with the player not willing to sign a contract after being forced to pay a six-figure tax bill the year before while tied to SEM.
Mr McGill claims he had met the then Villa manager, Martin O’Neill, to agree terms and suggested Mr McCann’s name to scouts at Wanderers via email.
He says he also went to the Reebok Stadium, with Mr McCann, as his agent, several times, which meant staff at the club will have known his position.
Mr Sheron, a personal friend of Mr Lee, allegedly discovered the involvement of Mr McGill at a meeting at Wigan Athletic on May 23, which both attended.
After that, Mr Sheron was in regular contact with Mr McCann, the first time SEM and the player had been in touch in 18 months.
Mr McGill says the only way SEM could have known the confidential details of the terms requested by Villa is if officials at Wanderers, such as Mr McParland, had told them, or someone at the May 23 meeting at Wigan.
The club paid SEM £300,000 for its services — a “wholly unrealistic” proportion of the transfer fee according to Mr McGill — which he claims shows SEM was representing Mr McCann, as the sum roughly equated to 10 per cent of the three-year £25,000-a-week contract the player was given, which would have been a standard charge.
This process — known as “switching” — was done so Mr McCann would not be charged additional tax on agency fees, according to Mr McGill.
The agent says that a six-figure tax bill received by Mr McCann after he renewed his contract at Sunderland in 2002 was the reason he originally ended his involvement with SEM.
Mr McGill also says the contract confirming Bolton’s signing of Mr McCann was backdated, with the date changed from June 8 to June 1.
He claims email exchanges between Mr Weston and Mr Marland show terms were still not agreed for the transfer on June 7.
Experts have analysed the original documents and agreed the date was changed from June 8 to June 1, something Mr McGill believes is an attempt to justify Bolton’s large payment to SEM.
On May 12, at the Marriott Hotel in Preston where Villa’s squad were staying before a match at Wanderers, Mr McGill says he met Mr O’Neill and was given permission to advance the transfer.
Mr Gartside claims he and Villa’s chief executive, Richard Fitzgerald, discussed the transfer of Mr McCann at the Reebok Stadium the following day — Mr Fitzgerald does not recall this, according to Mr McGill.
Mr Lee refused to speak to Mr McGill on June 7 when the agent called to discuss reports of Mr McCann’s medical, and knew Mr Sheron was not a licensed agent as the two were personal friends, it is alleged.
Mr McGill also says Mr McCann told him Mr McParland was the person at Wanderers who instructed him to change agents and use Mr Sheron instead.
All parties at Wanderers either knew of Mr McGill’s involvement in the transfer, or refused to ask questions about it, according to the agent.
And he says Mr Gartside will have known Mr Sheron was unlicensed and that Mr McGill was involved, and yet did nothing.
At the time, the club had recently appeared on Panorama as part of an investigation into corruption in football, something Mr Gartside said had left him “paranoid” about the club’s transfer activity.
The fact he processed the deal, given how using an unlicensed agent and “switching” SEM to the club rather than Mr McCann could compound the Panorama findings, is proof that Mr Gartside was party to the conspiracy to exclude Mr McGill, the agent claims.
Mr McGill also points out, given Wanderers were in debt at the time, that Mr Gartside would not have sanctioned a 30 per cent agency fee for a simple transfer.
He also claims that only Mr Gartside and Mr Marland had the authority to hire SEM — and as Mr Marland does not recall doing this, it must have been Mr Gartside who made the agreement.
Despite this knowledge, and the outraged texts and emails Mr McGill sent everyone involved at Wanderers and SEM on June 7 and 8, the deal was ratified by Mr Gartside.
The transfer was not processed until June 11, meaning Wanderers had time to take on board Mr McGill’s concerns and suspend the transfer, according to the agent.
Club secretary Mr Marland is accused of further deceiving Mr McGill by telling him he was on holiday from June 10 to June 25, yet he filed official papers for the transfer with the FA and Premier League on June 11.
He also claims to have had no dealings with Mr McGill before he received a complaint on June 11, despite referring to him by the nickname “Gillie” in a text message the day before.
Damages of £390,000, plus costs, are being pursued by Mr McGill, which is 10 per cent of the basic earnings from Mr McCann’s Wanderers contract.
Agency to argue that claims are ‘irrelevant’ and ‘embarrassing’
ALLEGATIONS that The Sport Entertainment Media Group (SEM) knowingly cut an agent out of Bolton Wanderers’ purchase of Gavin McCann in June 2007 are “irrelevant”, “vexatious” and “embarrassing”, the agency will argue in court.
In court documents released to The Bolton News, SEM says it repeatedly asked Mr McCann if he had an agent from April 6 to June 7 — when Mr McGill claims to have been working with him — and he always said no.
SEM insists it was representing Bolton Wanderers and not Mr McCann in the transfer, and argues Mr McGill’s verbal agreement with the midfielder was in breach of football rules.
SEM also denies that David Sheron — who Mr McGill says was operating as an agent without a licence — worked for them in that capacity.
SEM could not be reached for a direct comment.
With regard to doctoring the official transfer forms, SEM admits the papers were signed on June 1, and that they changed it to correct a “typographical error”.
This differs from Wanderers chairman Phil Gartside’s account, in which he said the papers were “dated” June 1, and did not specify when he signed them.
In turn, Mr Sheron insists he had no knowledge of Mr McGill’s work with Mr McCann until after the transfer had been completed.
Mr McGill’s argument that SEM was due to miss out on a commission payment dated for July 28 from Mr McCann’s transfer from Sunderland to Villa, and needed to arrange a replacement commission by being involved in the Bolton transfer, is “embarrassing conjecture”, argues SEM.
If the company had been motivated by that, it would have sought to delay the June 11 deal until after that date, the agency claims.
SEM also denies it had had no contact with Mr McCann for 18 months, arguing Mr Sheron and Jeffrey Weston knew Mr McCann and could enquire on Bolton’s behalf.
Rather than Mr McGill’s terms being leaked to them, SEM say a May 28 meeting between Mr Sheron, Steve Horner, also from the agency, and Wanderers’ then-manager Sammy Lee and director of football Frank McParland was when Mr McCann’s availability and value were first raised.
Midfielder ‘shown as a potential signing by SEM’, says club
WANDERERS claim SEM presented Mr McCann to them as a possible signing.
The club also maintain that at every stage of the deal, Mr McCann told them he did not have an agent, which undermines Mr McGill’s claims to have been working with him.
They admit scout Dave Worthington emailed a number of agents regarding players, but deny Mr McGill was the only one to suggest Mr McCann’s name.
The club reiterates SEM’s defence that, regardless of Mr McGill’s complaints, it is contrary to FA rules to represent a player on a verbal basis without a written contract, an offence which can see agents stripped of their licence.
Mr Marland says he did not have any dealings with Mr McGill until after the transfer had been completed.
Wanderers also say transfers needed the approval of manager Mr Lee and that Mr McGill’s contact with scouts Jack Chapman and Mr Worthington were not relevant as they had no authority to agree terms for players.
The club admit Mr Lee is a personal friend of Mr Sheron, but insist their manager believed SEM’s licensed agents were working on the transfer of Mr McCann.
Mr Sheron’s presence at Mr McCann’s June 8 medical is also explained as every member of Wanderers’ staff was at the wedding of former player, Nicolas Anelka, on the same day.
According to Mr McGill, SEM did not negotiate down the cost of Mr McCann’s contract or the transfer fee requested by Villa, so were of no benefit to Wanderers over this deal.
But the club maintain the representation agreement between them and SEM was correct and did not constitute a “switch”.
As an explanation for why no staff members flagged up Mr McGill’s accusations before the transfer was completed, the club argue there was no reason to think they were true and consequently report them.
It is the opinion of the club that the Panorama documentary, their debts and Mr Gartside’s comments that he was “paranoid” about conducting transfers are totally irrelevant.