Liverpool tapping-up saga Q&A: How was case exposed and what happens next?

Ben Rumsby
Anfield stadium - www.alamy.com

Why have Liverpool been hit with a transfer ban on academy players?

They tapped up and offered inducements to a Stoke City schoolboy and his family in order to lure him to Anfield. Both are against rules brought in to prevent the poaching of players who clubs invest time and money in developing. They were banned from signing for at least a year players who had been registered at another academy during the previous 18 months. A further one-year ban was suspended for three years and the club were also fined £100,000.

What did Liverpool do wrong?

The Premier League found Liverpool had arranged an all-expenses-paid trip for the boy and his family to a game at Anfield and had made “other efforts” to lure him from Stoke. Those “other efforts” include alleged conduct revealed for the first time today by The Telegraph. Liverpool did eventually make a legitimate approach to sign the boy from Stoke but only after having broken the rules.

How was the case exposed?

Liverpool offered to take over the payment of the boy’s private school fees from Stoke but when they tried to complete his signing, the Premier League informed them that was no longer allowed following a rule change in July prohibiting the practice by clubs unless they make the same  offer to all their scholars.  Liverpool then withdrew their offer, leaving the boy’s parents £5,000 in debt because he had already started school. The family duly pulled out of the deal and complained to the Premier League, revealing the tapping-up in the process.

Why can the boy not join another academy?

Because of a controversial academy transfer system that ensures clubs who develop young players are compensated when they move on. In the boy’s case, Stoke were entitled to £49,000: £3,000 for each of his first three years with them and £40,000 for the fourth. Liverpool would have been liable for this had he joined them. The boy cannot join another academy unless the new club are prepared to pay the compensation or Stoke waive it.

What happens next?

The boy and his family are exploring legal action against Liverpool, while Stoke are pursuing compensation from the Premier League, which is now under pressure to prevent other boys suffering the same plight. While the Premier League’s new five-step process for ratifying academy transfers is welcome, it does not go far enough to safeguard the rights of vulnerable families.

So this may not be a one-off?

Suspicion is rife that there is a culture of tapping-up and inducements in the academy  game. The Stoke chairman, Peter Coates, last week told The Telegraph matter-of-factly after Liverpool were punished: “Unfortunately, they are not alone. It happens and sometimes they get caught.”

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