In Saturday’s Guardian there was an article by Daniel Taylor regarding Ravel Morrison and his proposed loan move from West Ham United to Queens Park Rangers. Morrison has a troubled past, including criminal convictions, and was sold to West Ham by Manchester United at the start of 2012.
It was thought, until recently, that former Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce had performed one of his rescue missions on a gifted but wayward player. Now it is alleged that the relationship has broken down because Morrison was pressured to change his agent.
Manny Road can’t comment on the veracity of the Guardian article. There are no direct quotes and West Ham have issued a denial. However the matter has relevance to Bolton, because one of the agents involved is Mark Curtis (pictured above middle row, third from left) who was the subject of a piece on this site, just over two years ago.
When Manny Road was hacked, that article was lost. It is now republished, in its original form. with footnotes to bring matters up to date.
The Ginger Harry Secombe Who Runs Bolton Wanderers
It’s the close season, prior to the 2007-8 Premier League campaign and a familiar scene is about to unfold. Bolton Wanderers sign a new player, but just prior to the deal, a different agency from the one expected brokers the transaction.
That player is Jlloyd Samuel, on a free from Aston Villa. This time though, there’s a difference. The agency, Base Soccer, a large outfit with clients such as Aaron Lennon, Tom Huddlestone and Bobby Zamora, gives its consent to the switch.
Football agent Tony McGill takes up the story. Regular readers of this site will remember that McGill isn’t exactly a friend to Bolton chairman Phil Gartside, but it is also worth noting, that he had no financial interest in the events he describes.
“A couple of days before Bolton did his [the agent’s] deal, he got a call from Mark Curtis, to say ‘let me do the deal’ – because he’ll get more commission from Bolton. So this other agency allowed Mark Curtis to do the deal on behalf of Bolton Wanderers for Jlloyd Samuel because Gartside was paying him a bigger commission, and that’s fact,” he explains.
And what happened then?
“Then Curtis reneged on the deal and didn’t pay any other agency.”
Base Soccer sued, and the case was settled out of court.
Not that a player parting company with his agent is anything new, when Curtis is involved. Jesse Learoyd-Hill, was somewhat surprised to find that his client, Radhi Jaidi had joined Birmingham City from Bolton.
“That was the player’s decision not my decision,” explained Curtis referring to the decision to exclude Learoyd-Hill. “He said he didn’t want to take him along. If he had wanted to be represented by him he would have brought him along; it’s not a conversation I have particularly had. It’s of no concern to me who represents the player.”
In a transfer, an agent can represent the club or the player, but not both. Agents prefer to act on behalf of the club, as the tax position is considerably better. This however, opens a loophole. An unscrupulous agent can hijack a deal, claiming to represent the club, effectively poaching the player, which is a serious transgression under FA rules.
The name Mark Curtis will be familiar to Bolton fans, although not many would recognise him. That may be no bad thing. Peter Harrison was less than flattering about his former colleague.
“I played football,” said the ex-football agent. “He might have eaten a few footballs. He’s like Harry Secombe but with ginger hair.” And Curtis’s role at Bolton?
“He’s more or less chairman.”
When Bolton were looking for a new manager, after the departure of Sammy Lee, Curtis acted as an advisor to the club, despite the fact that Gary Megson, who he used to represent, was one of the candidates. That situation led Graeme Souness to withdraw from the process. Megson got the job.
Curtis is Kevin Nolan’s agent. He formerly acted in that capacity for Sam Allardyce and employed Allardyce’s son Craig through his company, Sport Player Management. That concern was sold in 2002, netting around £1 million, but was later wound up owing £250,000 in unpaid tax, dating back to before Curtis disposed of it.
In 2007 when Luton Town chairman Bill Tomlins stood down, he confessed to making illegal payments to agents totalling over £150,000. One of those paid was Direct Sports Management Limited – another Curtis vehicle that has since been struck off the register at Companies House.
Before that in 2004, West Brom banned Curtis from doing business with the club after an investigation into the purchase of defender Martin Albrechtsen. It was alleged that the transfer fee had been inflated by £500,000.
Going back still further, Curtis was fined £7,500 by the FA in November 1999 for improper conduct for his part in the transfer of fifteen year-old Jermaine Pennant from Notts County to Arsenal.
Phil Gartside says that Mark Curtis is the most honest football agent he’s ever met. He also refers to him as “our man on the inside.”
What Happened Next
Curtis became active at West Ham United, through his association with Sam Allardyce and Kevin Nolan. The article linked below describes some of his activities at that club.
Phil Gartside, Sammy Lee and several other members of Bolton Wanderers Football Club, along with sports agency SEM are being sued by Tony McGill as part of a long running dispute involving Gavin McCann’s move from Aston Villa in 2007. The trial takes place in Manchester in early April.
Peter Harrison, is working in football outside of the UK.
- Richard McCormick