Tottenham under FA investigation over sale of Jermain Defoe in 2008

The Football Association have confirmed they will investigate Tottenham Hotspur’s sale of Jermain Defoe to Portsmouth in 2008 amid claims an unlicensed agent was used as part of the deal.

Defoe enjoyed four years at Tottenham before leaving for Portsmouth for £7.5m in January 2008, earning himself a switch back to White Hart Lane 12 months later after bagging 16 goals in 31 Premier League games.

According to The Times, an unlicensed agent by the name of Mitchell Thomas was used to help the negotiations, while Spurs chairman Daniel Levy also failed to agree a representation contract with another agent who received £1m for his involvement in the sale – both breaches of FA rules.

A panel investigating potential issues with the transfer concluded in January 2010 that Thomas helped Defoe secure the terms of his Portsmouth contract, despite Defoe’s claims that he negotiated the contract himself, but the FA declined to pursue disciplinary action against Spurs when presented with the evidence.

“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.”

In another statement, the FA confirmed: “We are looking at the case, and as part of that we will be reviewing the arbitration panel award.”

Harry Redknapp, Portsmouth manager at the time of the deal, admitted he believed Thomas was acting as Defoe’s agent.

“I remember that transfer well because it’s a story I tell as an after-dinner speaker,” he said. “Jermain’s mum came down with him that day and she asked about a goal bonus. I looked at her and said, ‘It’s goals we’re paying him for’.

“I had very little to do with the deal but, as far as I know, Mitchell Thomas was his agent.”

Clubs have faced hefty punishments in the past for breaches of agent rules. Luton Town were docked ten points and handed a £50,000 in 2008 for failing to agree representation contracts, while former Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino was banned from football for 12 months in 2017 over his work with unlicensed agents.

What we know

  • Defoe joined Portsmouth from Tottenham for £7.5m in 2008
  • Spurs are accused of using an unlicensed agent to help seal the deal
  • FA learned of the claims in 2010 but declined to punish those involved.

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