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Culture, Media and Sport committee to consider 'tapping up' investigation

An investigation into 'tapping up' in youth football could be the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) select committee's next investigation following Liverpool's Premier League sanction for trying to poach a 12-year-old star from Stoke City.

Liverpool have been banned from signing players to their academy for at least a year and fined £100,000 after Stoke complained about the Merseyside club's approach to the player and his family.

According to the Daily Telegraph, this is alleged to have included an offer to pay his school fees, something Stoke had been doing until the Premier League introduced a rule last year that prevented clubs from doing this unless they paid the fees of all their academy players.

The move to Liverpool subsequently unravelled acrimoniously, leaving his family owing £5,000 to the school and the unnamed youngster, now 13, unable to join another academy until Stoke are paid £49,000 in compensation.

The newspaper also reported that the Premier League were already investigating a complaint from Liverpool about Manchester City's academy alleged poaching one of their brightest talents.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, CMS committee chairman Damian Collins MP said he will raise the subject at the panel's next meeting on Tuesday.

"I think the question for us is whether it is a one-off or the tip of an iceberg, and I would be interested to see if more people would be encouraged to come forward if we looked at it," said Collins.

"Because what we've seen from this case is that football does have rules in this area but are they policeable or is it just impossible to stop youngsters from being tapped up?

"The other thing that strikes me is that the rules appear to be all about resolving a dispute between clubs. What about the boy and his family? He will have missed a whole season of football and his family are out of pocket. That can't be right."

In the meantime, Collins has called on the Football Association to look into this area, too, as the competition for talent between the leading clubs appears to have become more intense than ever.

Collins, the Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, has become an increasingly influential voice in British sport as his committee have investigated issues ranging from anti-doping to football's governance to homophobia.

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