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Crookside: Have Liverpool Broken Premier League Rules?


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Whilst Real Madrid’s aggressive pursuit of Ronaldo has had Alex Ferguson and Manchester United reporting them to FIFA over the approach, the pursuit of Gareth Barry by Steven Gerrard and Rafa Benitez has seen less media coverage.

I’m going to wait until Gareth Barry has left Aston Villa until I make my feelings known on the captain of the club.

However, whatever I may think of the player, I have to admit that I am pretty surprised that Barry wanted to leave Villa in the first place. Still, those things happen. But what has really disappointed me in the whole process is in particular the conduct of Liverpool FC and our own manager when for a week he got himself into a little spat with Benitez until O'Neill grew up and decided to keep things ‘in house’.

The manner of Liverpool’s pursuit of Gareth Barry has been one which begun with the team trying the unsettle the player before any offer which would be along any kind of terms AVFC would consider had been made.

It even caused Graham Taylor to call it “the most obvious tap up I have ever seen in my life” during a radio interview on 31st May 2008.

You may remember that back in 2005, David O’Leary was found guilty of ‘tapping up’ Southampton striker James Beattie. He tapped him up so well, the striker moved to Everton. This was all down to one comment that the then Villa manager had made – he had been asked about the prospect of signing Beattie having just played against Southampton – and the manager had replied “there is a player there who wants to join us”.

This is particularly useful to Aston Villa now. We have a 'marker'. If we have been found guilty of this - then if others do the same then surely the same judgment needs to apply.

O’Leary and Villa were only given a reprimand by the Premier League due to their good record in the past.

This is why a number of comments that have come from Liverpool FC employees at startling – and leaves me wondering how they have got away with it seeing – as comments coming from Anfield (more than just one) are at least on par with these one comment from O’Leary.

May 9th 2008, Liverpool Daily Post

Rafa Benitez – “Barry can play in three different positions, so I don’t think we need to worry about this.”

So Rafa Benitez is talking about where he wants to play a player who is already under contract at a different club.

Tuesday 13th May 2008, “The Telegraph”.

Rafa Benitez - "[on Barry] If your captain wants to leave it's a problem but that's football" - these comments had been made despite Gareth Barry having told the press that he is actually happy at Villa Park.

Rafa Benitez - "I have been very clear. The player has said that he wanted to play Champions League football. We knew that so tried to sign a good player"

Rafa Benitez - "I was talking to Martin O'Neill. I said we would like to sign Gareth Barry"

Direct comments from one manager about another team’s contracted player.

Steven Gerrard, On England duty, 30th May 2008

"I want Gareth Barry to be a Liverpool player"

"I am desperate for us to sign him"

"I think Gareth is 27 now and he needs Champions League football. In my opinion, he needs that now".

Gareth Barry later expressed surprise that Gerrard had come out and made these comments public, indicating that Gerrard has been making these comments away from the media too.

Benitez has made comments much worse than those made by O’Leary as Villa manager. He’s named players and even got so far as to talking about the positions he wants to play them in. Meanwhile, Barry has all but admitted that Gerrard is at him off the pitch.

But what rules are there to stop this? Well, it’s all very ‘wishy washy’ and there are some you could argue either way. For example,



Fair Play in football means that EVERYONE connected with football:

c) behaves on and off the field in a sporting manner towards others involved, be they players, officials or spectators, irrespective of results.

You could argue that Liverpool and Rafa Benitez’s continued comments in the media is not sporting fair play. Martin O’Neill had told the Spaniard that he wasn’t available, and as such, Benitez should had not been talking to the press about it.

LMA (League Managers Association) CODE OF CONDUCT

14. A manager shall conduct himself at all times in an ethical and professional manner and shall observe the highest standards of integrity and fair play.

I don’t think talking about another team’s player in the press when it has been made quite obvious the opposing manager does not wish to sell is observing integrity. I don’t think the way Benitez has talked about where he wishes to play a player who is contracted to another club is particularly professional, either.


2. A manager shall not, either directly (including making statements to the media)

2.1 make an approach to a contract player with a view to the manager negotiating a contract

It would take a lot of convincing for me to believe that Benitez has not broken this rule. It even says “including statements to the media”. The quotes at the beginning of this article are enough for me.

And this is why Aston Villa need to take this to the Premier League, FA and LMA. We shouldn’t just lie down and take it anymore. Over the past two years we have begun to rebuild our reputation and the club has acted in not only a professional way but has reclaimed the fans as part of the club.

All clubs must act under the same rules, same guidelines. If not, then quite simply this league isn’t fair to all. We don’t owe it just to Aston Villa, but we owe it to the 18 other Premier League clubs. Action must be taken over this.

Lets face it, this isn’t the first time Liverpool F.C. have been guilty of such tactics. They were previously fined £20,000 for being found guilty of tapping up Christian Ziege from Middlebrough.

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a very good read there!

and although we would all like to firstly, take liverpool to the FA and LMA and have them strung up by their balls, and secondly, keep barry here next season and remain as our captain!

the truth is, our club still has no backbone, and mon is weak, very weak, he wont do jack sh!t about it, he wont even put up a fight about the fee, we will recive half of what barry is worth purely for the fact that "he wants to leave and we cant stop him"

(of course we bloody can martin, hes under contract!)

not only this, but for many seasons now, the whole country as known one thing... every club has to follow FA rules, but the 'top 4' have their own rules and can do whatever the f**k they like!

the only reason why gerrard wants barry at liverpool is because he is ball greedy and wont do defensive duties

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and mon is weak, very weak, he wont do jack sh!t about it, he wont even put up a fight about the fee, we will recive half of what barry is worth purely for the fact that "he wants to leave and we cant stop him"

any basis for this comment? any evidence at all?

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yip, look at the size of the squad due to the fact hes let players leave, hes the manager, he should be saying to players that they will be staying until he can find a better replacement!

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would like to see something done but, even if it is, the process is invariably too slow to make any real difference, particularly in terms of keeping Liverpool from signing Barry. Villa might get some compensation, but I fear thats the best we can hope for.

p.s. Cheers for the constructive comments Tazzy - keep up the 'support'.

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Good article, but as good as it is The General has said many times on his thread that AVFC will not be doing anything in the public domain on this issue...

Can the fans complain and send this or other e-mails into the FA?

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It's good to see this laid out like this, and when you see the examples and the rules next to each other, it's pretty difficult not to conclude that Liverpool Football Club and their manager have been in breach of the leagues regulations on this issue.

Maybe this is something that those in the press might pick up and run with?

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One would hope that journalists would hve been doing the same research Scott - then again - if this is use to some to try and make the issue aware then great.

I think the first two points can be argued either way, but the Premier League L looks like it could have been breached here. f course, thre are other managers wwho are more guilty of commenting on other tams players, but they should be dealt with too.

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You would hope that journalists have been working hard behind the scenes, but I've yet to see anything come of it.

There has been a lot of hot air of late on the boards, it's good to have the quotes and rules in the same place for the sake of clarity.

I would hope that clarity might inspire one or two of those that regularly borrow from here and help them to fill a little space, it'd certainly be more supportive of the region and more reflective of the readership than recent efforts in the local press.

For me, Liverpool are having it too easy in public on this one, I respect the clubs admirable stance on not being dragged into public spats, but sometimes the club can find itself supported from elsewhere without it's integrity being jeopardised.

This is one of those times I think. This article helps to increase awareness of the poor behaviour and standards of one of the countries football institutions and as such I think it's a step in the right direction.

Liverpool FC should not be above the laws of the game.

(That's what Utd are for.)

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The only way anything will be done, is if there is a official complaint from the club. The FA have a history of letting things slide, unless there is a complaint, then only they give the club a slap on the wrist. Looked what happened with West Spam, if the FA had of been fair dinkum they would be in the Championship.

This type of thing will continue to go on, as the Top 4 are allowed to pillage the rest of the league. It amazes me that Man Utd are whinging about Real Madrid tapping up Ronaldo, they virtually did the same with Yorke to us.

I have Barry's name on the back of my jersey, but I don't mind Barry moving on, as I think there are better players out there that can play his role. Would I rather him stay, yes, but O'Neill is shrewd enough to overlook this setback and deliver a better quality player to the club.

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I would have to completely disagree with tazzy who said MON is weak and will let Barry go for less than he's worth.. If this was the case, then why has he rejected 3 bids for him already? I personally think Mon's doing a fantastic job with this as i dont think Barry will ever be worth as much as he is now.. It was only a couple of seasons ago that he nearly left for 5 million and now we're getting nearer 20.. Hopefully with that kind of money MON will start spending big on players too!

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