Agent Willie McKay's plan to keep Doncaster in the Championship

By John SinnottBBC Sport
Pascal Chimbonda and El-Hadji Diouf
Chimbonda (left) and Diouf have been brought to Doncaster by McKay

With the January transfer window fast approaching keep an eye on the ins and outs at Doncaster Rovers.

The club might be at the wrong end of the Championship table with gates of only about 10,000 but, after taking the unusual step of turning to agent Willie McKay to help them avoid relegation, Doncaster are hoping the Scot will attract a stellar cast of players to the Keepmoat Stadium.

McKay, who has negotiated the transfers involving many Premier League players including Joey Barton and James McFadden, has already brought defenders Pascal Chimbonda, 32, and Herita Ilunga, 29, as well as El-Hadji Diouf, 30, to Doncaster, although Robert Pires said no to the club's advances.

There has even been talk of former Real Madrid and Lyon midfielder Mahamadou Diarra, 30, taking a turn at the Keepmoat.

Using McKay's extensive contacts the plan is to profit from the loan system. Big English and European clubs will subsidise the wages of players that no longer figure in their plans, while Doncaster can bring a calibre of player to the club they could previously only have dreamed of signing.

Through McKay, the Championship side were able to sign Ilunga on a three-month loan deal from West Ham. Doncaster only pay about £2,000 a week for the player, with the London club covering the remainder of his salary.

Dean Saunders
Dean Saunders replaced Sean O'Driscoll as boss in September

Rovers are paying McKay a weekly fee of £100 to recruit players at a fraction of what they would normally pay clubs. When he is not helping Doncaster "in between transfer windows", McKay, 52, continues his usual agency work.

"The club have a wee chance of survival. Apart from Billy Sharp, nobody has come in and shown any interest in any of our players," McKay told BBC Sport, referring to Doncaster's in-demand striker to emphasise the club's perilous position and lack of profile.

"We needed to do something different. Peterborough's wage bill is £3.5m and Rovers' is £8.5m. They are above us in the table. Remember Doncaster don't own their stadium or their training ground."

McKay has been involved in countless transfers but was also investigated and cleared in 2007 by the Quest team, led by Lord Stevens, which looked into allegations of "bungs" and fraud in transfers.

In 2008, McKay was given a suspended ban after being found guilty of breaching Football Association rules during the transfer of Benjani to and from Portsmouth.

"They spent £25m looking at football corruption but I've been through every investigation and I have been cleared," said McKay, who added that he is suing the City of London police over his 2007 arrest as part of that organisation's probe into corruption in football.

Since he started working with Doncaster, McKay says he has had three clubs ask him why he had not suggested such a proposal to them.

El-Hadji Diouf
El-Hadji Diouf has signed a three-month deal with Doncaster

However, Doncaster's relationship with McKay represents a change of opinion for the club's chairman John Ryan.

Last year, the Rovers chairman criticised current Liverpool striker Craig Bellamy's loan move to Cardiff from Manchester City, arguing it would "distort the integrity of the Championship".

"Handing a striker of Bellamy's quality to Cardiff - and paying most of his wages - undermines the sanctity of the competition," Ryan told the Daily Mail in August 2010external-link, arguing the loan system should be about sending out youngsters to "become better footballers".

Another question is what happens when a player that Doncaster signs on loan then moves and whether McKay, who would be acting in the best interests of the club, receives a commission from the subsequent transfer?

"It would be argued that this is a separate transaction," said lawyer Daniel Geey of Field Fisher Waterhouse. "FA regulation C4 onwards does appear to allow for an agent with a player's consent to act for both parties."

McKay added: "I don't represent Illunga or Diouf, though I worked with Chimbonda, but I will try and help them find a big club. There is no conflict of interest."

Football's regulators are "monitoring" Doncaster's approach.

"Consultancy agreements are allowed within the rules and regulations of the FA," said an FA spokesman. "But we scrutinise every transfer between the clubs.

"The loan system is an established process and he is not breaking any rules. We ratify the league rules but it is up the league how they run their competition."

The Football League declined to provide an on the record comment but the Professional Footballers' Association chief executive Gordon Taylor added: "This is a situation which needs very careful monitoring and this is exactly the position we are adopting at the moment.

"I also believe the Football League is doing the same."

However one of Doncaster's relegation rivals is unconvinced the approach will work.

"I'm not overly concerned but we don't see it as a model to build a good team," said Bristol City chairman Colin Sexstone. "I don't think it will do them any good. You are getting short-term mercenaries and, by definition, they will be using the club for their own ends."

BBC Sport asked to interview Ryan, the club's chief executive David Morris and manager Dean Saunders. Those requests were rejected by the club's press officer.

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