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Sep 10, 2009

Cook hits back at Bates over ''poaching'' claims

Manchester City executive chairman Garry Cook has hit back at Leeds chairman Ken Bates and FIFA president Sepp Blatter who are clamouring for points deductions for the ''poaching'' of kids.

Cook believes that the whole issue has become so emotive that the actual circumstances and facts, whether rules have been broken or not, are being overlooked.

Cook talked exclusively to ESPNsoccernet about the big issue in football at the moment.

He said: "Everything to do with this is under the microscope, call it child trafficking, baby farming, whatever you like, it has opened up a Pandora's Box, with everyone looking into that box, and clubs like ours are being unfairly pinpointed for all sorts of reasons."

Bates is taking Manchester City to a tribunal over their controversial capture of two 14-year-olds, George Swann and Louis Hutton, from Leeds United, in the latest in a mushrooming series of similar cases that has now affected Chelsea, Manchester United and finally City.

Bates' action against mega-rich City came just as the Eastlands side were highlighted as the latest English club to come under scrutiny for their recruitment of a young player after FIFA confirmed they are investigating the capture of Jeremy Helan from Rennes.

Leeds have now revealed that the bitter row between themselves and City is scheduled to take place at a tribunal "within the next two weeks".

Bates said that he wants to lead a major campaign against the practice of what he calls "baby farming", referring to smaller clubs having their prize kids signed up by Premier League teams.

But Cook responded: "We are going through the normal process, we have a dispute, and it will be judged by a tribunal. Isn't that the appropriate course of action? I would question whether the right course of action is to air this in public, without the public knowing the full facts, which, in truth, should be confined to the tribunal.

"Good business principles would be to follow the process and rely upon it. Let's gather all the facts and then come to a proper decision.

"At the moment it comes across as the small clubs getting small amounts of money from the big clubs, compared to the amount of money spent by Manchester City in the transfer market. But one thing has nothing to do with the other. I do object to some of the insinuations flying around without anyone having a grasp of the full facts."

• Harry Harris has twice won the British Sports Journalist of the Year award. His book Down Memory Lane is now available.
•  Harry writes in association with Football40
and Football Nights.

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