Sun, Jun


Kelvin JackTrinidad and Tobago 2006 World Cup goalkeeper Kelvin Jack has been out of contract for the past nine months and has not played in a competitive football match since April 2007. But the former Holy Cross College student might be set for the limelight in a different role after a comprehensive legal victory over British agent Mike Berry on Friday.

The British Supreme Court quashed an appeal from Berry, who operates the Imageview Manage-ment Ltd, and ordered him to pay Jack a £3,000 (TT$27,233) "side deal" that Berry secretly obtained from Scottish club Dundee in 2004-minus £750 (TT$6,808) for his services-and foot the "Soca Warrior's" legal fees, which are approximately £30,000 (TT$272,338). Berry's own legal costs in both courts are thought to be in the range of £75,000 (TT$680,845).

But Berry's appeal put him in a considerably worse position than when he initially lost to Jack in a Leeds County Court room, 13 months ago. This time, the Supreme Court ruled that Berry's deal with Dundee violated his contract with the former San Juan Jabloteh captain and also ordered the agent to return all agency fees paid after that point.

Berry, who was a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) 2006 World Cup staff and also manages England-based T&T football stars Carlos Edwards, Jason Scotland, Clayton Ince and Dennis Lawrence, was ordered to return £10,000 (TT$90,779) that he collected in fees from Jack during his spell at the then Scotland Premier League team.

It is believed to take the Liverpool-based agent's total legal costs into the vicinity of £117,250 (TT$1,064,387).

Jack's solicitor, Michael Townley, insisted that was only the beginning.

The Supreme Court's ruling, which Townley suggested was unprecedented in the world of football, means football agents worldwide can be forced to hand over any undeclared benefits received from clubs while they were representing their players and have their contracts voided.

"For high-profile and high-earning players, the sums at stake could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds," said Townley, who represented Jack alongside barrister Steven Turner. "There is no time limit for bringing a claim against an agent or former agent and this judgment should send a shiver down the spine of all those agents who have historically taken money from both sides.

"Retired players in particular might now be encouraged to sue their former agents for secret payments they suspect were made behind their backs and all the fees paid to the agent, perhaps going back many years."

The ruling comes at a time when the England Football Association (FA) and the Association of Football Agents (AFA) are at loggerheads over the FA's proposed Football Agent Regulations, which prohibit "dual representation". The ruling in Jack's case made it clear that football agents were not above normal business law.

"The Law imposes on agents high standards," stated Lord Justice Jacob in his Supreme Court judgment. "Footballer's agents are not exempt from this An undisclosed but realistic possibility of a conflict of interest is a breach of your duty of good faith to your client."

Berry could be in deeper financial problems if any of his other past or present charges-including another T&T 2006 World Cup player Brent Sancho, as well as Hector Sam and Josh Johnson-follow suit.

Berry pocketed roughly £90,000 (TT$817,014) from Luton in agent fees-£44,500 (TT$403,968) of which was subsequently deemed an illegal payment by the FA-when he steered Edwards to the Championship Division club in 2005. The agent is thought to charge his clients approximately ten per cent of their weekly salary, although this is not standard practice in Britain. Berry previously refused to confirm or deny whether he taxed his players' salary.

If Edwards, whose wages at a Premiership team like Sunderland can be anywhere between £6,000 (TT$54,467) and £20,000 (TT$181,559) per week, has a similar contract to Jack and forced Berry to repay agency fees for the past four years, the figure owed could be staggering. It could be worse, still, if Berry received an undis-closed fee from Wrexham when Edwards first joined the ranks of Britain's professional footballers in 2000. In 1995, European football was rocked by the "Bosman ruling" after obscure Belgian footballer Jean-Marc Bosman was blocked from switching clubs although his contract had expired with previous employer, RFC Liege, in 1990.

The ruling banned restrictions of foreign European Union members within the national leagues and allowed professional players to move freely to other teams at the end of their contracts. Thousands of players have benefitted since, including local stars like Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy and Shaka Hislop. Jack's case might similarly interest players who felt abused by their agents.

Berry initially claimed that he revealed the Dundee payment to his client but the Leeds County Court and Supreme Court Judges believed Jack when he said his agent, when confronted, said only "none of your business".

"That (Berry) lied suggests that he knew in his heart that he ought to have been open with his client," stated Lord Justice Jacob. "In making the side deal in this case, the agent, Imageview, through Mike Berry, acted in breach of the duty of fidelity which it owed to the principal Mr Jack Mr Berry clearly used his position or connection with Mr Jack to obtain a benefit for himself.

"The more (Imageview) got for itself, the less there would or could be for Mr Jack. Moreover it gave Imageview an interest in Mr Jack signing for Dundee as opposed to some other club where no side deal for Imageview was possible."

T&T goalie driven by insult.

The balance of power between football players and agents might have shifted Friday when Britain's Supreme Court struck a blow against the controversial practice of dual representation, which regards agents being paid by clubs while representing their players.

The Supreme Court ordered English agent Mike Berry to hand over £2,250 (TT$20,576) from an undisclosed £3,000 (TT$27,233) fee he received from Scottish professional club, Dundee, to process the work permit of his then client and Trinidad and Tobago 2006 World Cup goalkeeper, Kelvin Jack. He was allowed to keep £750 (TT$6,858), which Lord Justice Jacob ruled was the value of his work.

Berry must also repay every penny he collected from Jack after that "side deal", which breached his contract with the player and effectively voided their partnership. The Liverpool-based agent has until month end to pay Jack £10,000 (TT$90,779) while he must also foot the former Holy Cross student's legal bill, which is roughly £30,000 (TT$272,338).

Berry, who represented the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) for the 2006 World Cup and manages several other T&T stars including Carlos Edwards (Sunderland), Jason Scotland (Swansea), Clayton Ince (Walsall) and Dennis Lawrence (Crewe), is now wide open for similar legal action if he also failed to declare other bits of business involving his other players.

It is not the first time Berry has been caught out. He was found to have taken an illegal payment of £44,500 (TT$403,968) from Luton Football Club during the transfer of Edwards in 2005. Jack told the Sunday Express he found out about Berry's secret payment from Dundee and raised the matter with him. The response stung the goalkeeper.

"The only reason I pushed on is because when I asked him he told me to mind my own business," said Jack. "I felt insulted by it. There and then I decided I would pursue this matter."

The two fought in court for just over two years. Berry won the initial case and Jack paid a judgment of £3,700 (TT$33,836). However, the goalkeeper switched lawyers and hired Michael Townley, who also represents 15 Trinidad and Tobago World Cup players in an ongoing suit against the TTTF. Jack won his appeal in early 2007 at the Leeds County Court, while the Supreme Court dismissed Berry's appeal last week.

"I am just relieved that it is finally over," said Jack. "It has been going on for too long and I am happy I can close that chapter."

Jack has hardly played since the World Cup-his last competitive match was in April 2007. A tendonitis injury in his left knee blighted most of his time with his last employer, England League One club Gillingham, while he broke his right leg last year at a trial with Championship Division outfit, Barnsley. But he said he started full training on Thursday and hopes to be playing competitively before the end of this season.

England League One club Southend, whose captain Adam Barrett is a friend of Jack's, have allowed him to use their facilities while he recuperates.

"Obviously I have been out for a long time and have had a few setbacks in my comeback," said Jack. "So the key right now is to try to remain injury free. I am happy that there are a couple clubs who have been following my progress over the last year I fully expect to be playing, touch wood, long before the summer."

The 32-year-old custodian has not represented the "Soca Warriors" since Trinidad and Tobago's 2-0 2006 World Cup loss to Paraguay in Kaiserslautern but is desperate to wear national colours again. He is paying close attention to the 2010 South Africa campaign.

"Without a doubt I still want to play for my country," he said. "(South Africa) 2010 is a huge ambition of mine and even moreso because of the terrible injury I suffered a year ago. I am very, very motivated and very thankful for so many people who assisted me in the past year to get where I am now.

"There is still a lot of hard work to do but I am on the pitch now and I am convinced that I will be better than I was before."