Tottenham are facing serious allegations of breaching transfer rules during Jermain Defoe’s move to Portsmouth in 2008.
No action was taken by the Football Association at the time, but it is understood the governing body are prepared to review the allegations.
Breaches of FA agent rules have previously resulted in point deductions, transfer bans, and suspensions for club officials.
“The case was heard by an independent arbitration panel 15 years ago,” a spokeswoman for the FA said.
“The FA was not a party to the arbitration. It is unclear how much information was shared with the FA at the time, and no disciplinary action was taken. If there is new evidence which was not available at the time, and which suggests serious breaches of our rules took place, we will review it.”
Luton were docked ten points for breaching agent regulations in the same year, while Tottenham finished three points above Manchester City to qualify for the Champions League in the 2009/10 season.
The allegations over Defoe’s move to Fratton Park were first raised by agent Sky Andrew after he was dropped by the former striker, who claimed to represent himself in the deal.
The Times claims: “At the arbitration hearing over the Defoe transfer, the panel found that Mitchell Thomas, the former West Ham United and Tottenham player and an unlicensed agent, was a central figure in the deal. Thomas was named by the FA in 2008 on a list of agents who had been operating in football without a licence.
“It was also heard that Levy enlisted the services of Stuart Peters, an agent who was licensed, to act for Tottenham but that a representation contract — required under FA rules — did not appear to be in place. Levy agreed to pay Peters about around £1 million for his role in the £7.5 million transfer.”
Tottenham declined to comment but Portsmouth said in a statement: “The signing of Jermain Defoe in 2008 occurred under a previous ownership and those involved in the transfer of the player’s registration from Tottenham Hotspur are no longer at the club, having left many years ago.
“The current board and ownership acquired the club in 2017 from the Pompey Supporters’ Trust and club presidents, who themselves formally acquired the club in 2013.
“The board and the new executive therefore have no knowledge of any negotiations that led to Portsmouth Football Club’s registration of Jermain Defoe in 2008.”
Matt Lawton, chief sports correspondent for The Times, joined talkSPORT to provide background on the story.
He said: “At that time, Defoe had a representation contract with Sky Andrew. It led to an arbitration because Sky was of the view that Defoe was in breach of his contract, because a footballer cannot use his agent if he basically does a negotiation himself.
“But the view was he’d used a guy called Stuart Peters, a licensed agent, and the assistance also Mitchell Thomas, the ex-Tottenham and West Ham footballer, who was an unlicensed agent.
“So there was a private arbitration and there was some reporting around this at the time but we don’t get to hear these arbitrations, what’s happened, we don’t get to hear the outcome or anything. Actually what we now know is that the outcome of this, Sky won the case and the panel, three QC’s at the time concluded that Mitchell Thomas, an unlicensed agent, had been a central figure in this negotiation.
“He basically helped broker the deal and had been involved in dealing with Tottenham, with Daniel Levy the Tottenham Chairman, had dealt with Harry Redknapp the Portsmouth manager, had dealt on countless occasions on the day of the transfer with Defoe himself. This was all detailed in phone records that had to be acquired through a High Court application and once the panel had these phone records, they then realised that there were potential breaches of FIFA agent rules and FA agent rules.
“These rules are in place to protect the integrity not just of football but of the transfer market, they’re are very serious rules that have to be complied with.”
Lawton added: “There was a further issue raised by the panel that the agent that Tottenham did enlist, there was no evidence in the hearing that there was a formal representation contract in place. You have to have one of those as well, so two potential breaches.
“When Luton Town, in the same year, were found to have paid agents without representation contracts, they received a ten-point deduction. When Massimo Cellino at Leeds was found in 2017 to have dealt with an unlicensed agent, he was banned from football for a year, received a £250,000 fine and the entire Leeds board had to go on an education course on how to deal with football intermediaries. So again, I want to emphasise, these are serious breaches.
“Now, at the end of such an arbitration, the arbitrators send the file to the FA. We don’t believe that the FA did anything about this case. We don’t believe that there were any charges issued, there weren’t any sanctions, no one got punished for this.
“Defoe was an England footballer, he played in the World Cup that summer, by the time that this award was given in early 2010.
“The FA have confirmed that no action was taken. They also, based on the statement they’ve given us, they are not clear that they received all the relevant information and now what they’re saying is if the full detail of this case comes to light, which we are revealing in The Times now, then they will review the case.”
Meanwhile, Defoe’s former agent Andrew questions the lack of action from football’s governing bodies.
He told talkSPORT: “Arbitrations need to be taken seriously, it’s supposed to be a serious process where people get evidence and people get to the truth.
“Once that happens, I think that the governing bodies then have to look at it and see if there’s anyone that’s done anything wrong or anything like that because otherwise, what’s the point of an arbitration?
“The whole point of it is to be a court of law, outside the court of law and a confidential process which comes to a conclusion and once it comes to a conclusion, then it has to go to the next phase.
“What Matt tells me is that it did go to the next phase and the governing bodies… well, I can’t say that they haven’t done anything because I don’t know that process, but it does seem that nothing’s happened.”
Read the full Times investigation here.