The Guardian understands that in Carroll’s contract with Liverpool, signed in the final hours of the transfer window, the player stated that he did not use an agent; a solicitor, Richard Green, said he had advised him. Liverpool did use an agent. They employed David Bromley, whose name is noted in the contract below that of Damien Comolli, the man Henry hired in November as the director of football strategy and who is in charge of signing players.
Bromley is not a well-known agent. He does hold a Fifa licence and is authorised by the Football Association, giving the name of his company, Centurion Sports Management, registered in Maidstone, Kent. The company has no website and no telephone number is listed on Bromley’s Fifa entry, nor in directory enquiries. The contact detail provided in the Fifa agents’ list is a hotmail address. Bromley has not responded to a series of questions sent to that address asking what his role was in the Carroll transfer.
Carroll is reported to be in a dispute with his former agent, Peter Harrison, who claims he has a two-year written contract with the player to represent him, running from March 2009 into this month – so covering the move to Liverpool. Reports of Harrison’s claim against Carroll for allegedly breaking that deal have said the striker wanted to be represented instead by Mark Curtis, an agent with long involvement at Bolton Wanderers, where he began acting for Kevin Nolan, who became Carroll’s mentor at Newcastle.
Curtis also represented Sam Allardyce for years and is said to have been at odds with Harrison since the BBC’s 2006 Panorama programme on transfers. In it Harrison was filmed telling an undercover reporter he did deals at Bolton by paying Craig Allardyce, son of Sam, who was then their manager. Allardyce Jnr had worked for Curtis’s company, Sports Player Management, until 2003, when the Bolton chairman, the Football Association board member Phil Gartside, responding to concerns about possible conflicts of interest, prohibited Craig Allardyce from doing deals at Bolton while working for Curtis.
The programme reported that Harrison had paid Craig Allardyce for working on the signing of two players by his father at Bolton, the midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata and goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi. Harrison subsequently said Craig Allardyce had worked legitimately on the deals. Neither the FA nor Fifa has ever charged Harrison, Allardyce or anybody else with any breach.
In English football, if a player leaves his agent part way through a contract he cannot be represented by another for two years. The FA, which regulates agents in England, will interpret it as poaching by the second agent, a serious breach of the rules. Carroll, looking at a five-year deal at Liverpool on a reported £80,000 per week, could not be represented by an agent if indeed he had a contract with Harrison at the time.
Several prominent agents who have worked for years in English football told the Guardian they had never heard of or come across David Bromley in any deal. An analysis of Bromley’s records at Companies House shows that nine firms of which he has been a director have been struck off the register and dissolved. The one he lists at Fifa, Centurion Sports Management, was formed 15 months ago and has not yet been required to file accounts.
His only other company is Direct Sports Management, which has been proposed by Companies House for striking off the register and has not filed accounts since those to 31 May 2007. Bromley is still registered as the secretary of the company – and the sole director is Mark Curtis.
In two other companies, both now dissolved and struck off the register, Bromley and Curtis were co-directors. In one, Property Hunter, registered at the same Maidstone address as Centurion Sports Management, Bromley and Curtis, both 48, were the only directors and shareholders. Curtis cited his occupation as “sports agent” while Bromley is listed as “IT director”. The company last filed accounts two years ago and in April last year Bromley and Curtis applied to have the firm dissolved.
The other company in which they were co-directors was the football agency, Sports Player Management, for which Craig Allardyce worked. Bromley was a director for three years, resigning in April 2002. That was when Curtis made around £1m by selling the company to another agency, Premier Management Holdings plc. In April 2006, Premier Management revealed that Sports Player Management was to be wound up after it was hit with a petition from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs for “unpaid arrears of taxes” dating back to before Curtis had sold it and when Bromley was still the secretary – the financial year to 28 February, 2002. The company’s most recent accounts show that by May 2005 it owed £250,000 in corporation tax.
Curtis left Premier Management in 2004, the company saying he was going to “concentrate on other business areas that are incompatible with his working full-time as a football agent”.
Curtis has, though, continued to work as a football agent. He is licensed by Fifa, now giving his address as a company, Select Sports Management, in Gibraltar, an offshore tax haven. He did not reply to a series of questions about whether he was involved in the Carroll transfer in any capacity. Harrison’s claim against Carroll has gone to arbitration, where proceedings are confidential, so Harrison declined to comment on the revelation that Bromley, a partner of Curtis’s, acted for Liverpool. Newcastle refused to answer any questions about how the deal worked.
Liverpool declined to say in detail why they needed an agent to help sign Newcastle’s centre-forward; why, if they did need one, they chose Bromley; what Bromley did exactly and how much they paid for his services. A spokesman said: “The club did use the services of an agent on the transfer. This was a high-value deal, concluded within very tight timescales and we had some external support on it.”
To sum up, the 22-year-old recently capped England centre-forward did not use an agent to negotiate his terms in moving to Liverpool for a British record fee. Liverpool did employ an agent: David Bromley, a close associate of Mark Curtis, whom Carroll’s former agent, Peter Harrison, has accused of acting for the player.
Curtis and Harrison are reported to have fallen out after the BBC’s Panorama alleged Harrison paid Craig Allardyce, who had worked for Curtis, on transfer deals at Bolton when the club was managed by his father, Sam Allardyce, who Curtis represented.
And John Henry, who arrived from US baseball, a sport in which agents can act only for players, has learned that no rules have been broken, that this is the way the biggest ever deal between two English clubs had to be done.