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Old 1st July 2005, 05:58   #1
Paul Brooks

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Default Keegan fails in Danish libel case

Keegan fails in Danish libel case
Dominic Fifield : Guardian : Friday July 1, 2005

Proactive Sports Management and the former Manchester City manager Kevin Keegan have lost a libel case in Denmark brought against Olav Skaaning Andersen, the former sports editor of the newspaper Ekstra Bladet, and the former head of the Danish players' union Palle Sorensen.

The case centred on comments made in articles in July 2003 concerning the transfer of the Danish defender Mikkel Bischoff from AB Copenhagen to City in July 2002.

Documents shown to the court during the three-week trial indicated that Proactive, now known as the Formation Group, may have acted on behalf of both Bischoff and City in negotiating the transfer, which would contravene Fifa regulations. Bischoff's agent, Karsten Aabrink of Proactive Scandinavia, told the court that he had been unaware that City had asked Proactive's UK branch to arrange the move.

Article 14d of the world governing body's regulations states: "An agent is required to represent only one party when negotiating a transfer."

The loss of the libel case came against the backdrop of the agent Paul Stretford, who founded Proactive in 1987, facing a Football Association investigation for alleged breaches of Fifa and FA regulations over how he acquired the right to represent the England striker Wayne Rooney. Stretford has vowed to fight the charges at a personal hearing.

Fifa confirmed it was aware of the case, as did the FA, whose spokesman, speaking about the potential conflict of interests over the Bischoff transfer, said: "Any international transfers fall within Fifa's jurisdiction."

The libel case was brought over the articles in Ekstra Bladet which cited an internal Proactive memo, shown to the court, which indicated that City had paid AB Copenhagen 750,000 to sign Bischoff but had also made a further payment of 4.2m Danish Kroner (350,000) to Proactive to secure the player.

A spokesperson for Proactive confirmed in 2003 that such a fee had been agreed with City and insisted that it reflected "a percentage of the player's earnings over the duration of a five-year contract. As such it constitutes a percentage to the agent of 5%-10% of wages. This is a figure which is entirely within Fifa and FA guidelines. The payments have been staggered over a period of years."

Andersen, aware that Keegan - like Aabrink - was a Proactive shareholder when the deal for Bischoff was concluded, wrote in July 2003 that: "British managers have been caught receiving multi-millions in kickbacks before. The suspicion that Keegan has personally received money for the Bischoff deal is well-founded and you would think the management of Manchester City would be interested in learning all the facts. They keep silent for the time being, however."

Reacting to confirmation that Proactive had received the substantial fee over Bischoff's transfer, Sorensen, then head of the Danish Players' Union, was quoted in Ekstra Bladet on July 15 2003 as saying: "Something a bit dodgy seems to have occurred. Although I've got no evidence, of course, the matter does seem a little fishy because usually an agent doesn't earn this much in a transfer of this magnitude."

Keegan along with Aabrink and Proactive Sports Group plc sued Andersen for libel as they perceived his comments implied that the City manager had benefited financially from the Bischoff deal. The former England manager, who left City earlier this year and was not present in court, has always denied - and there is no evidence to suggest - that he personally benefited from the Bischoff transfer other than as a minority shareholder in Proactive.

Proactive Scandinavia and Proactive Sports Group plc also claimed that Sorensen's quote implied they had committed a criminal offence.

Last week the judge ruled that, under Danish law, what Andersen and Sorensen had said was not defamatory of Keegan, Aaabrink or Proactive. He ordered the claimants to pay 30,000 Danish Kroner in legal costs to each defendant.

Aabrink, acting for Bischoff, insisted to the court that he had not been aware that City were using Proactive UK in their negotiations for his player. He denied receiving the 350,000 himself and confirmed he had been paid 10,000 by Bischoff for his part in negotiating potential moves to either Aston Villa, Arsenal - neither of which ultimately materialised - and City. Bischoff, 23, has made one Premiership appearance for the club in three years.

Proactive declined to comment on the case, as did Manchester City. The Guardian was unable to contact Keegan.,00.html
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