By Jason McKeown
FIFA has today announced that Bradford City must pay Falkirk 250,000 euros compensation for the signing of Mark Stewart in the summer of 2011.
Stewart arrived at Valley Parade on a free transfer; but being only 22-years-old at the time, Falkirk claimed they were entitled to receive a transfer fee in view of their role in his development as a youth player. The Scottish club quickly announced it would be referring the matter to FIFA.
Having failed in attempts to sign Ashley Grimes and Clayton Donaldson, it is understood that then-manager Peter Jackson agreed to look at alternative players suggested by then-Chief Scout and Head of Football Development, Archie Christie. Stewart was one of the strikers put forward, but it would seem as though Jackson also knew about him anyway after stating shortly after the transfer was completed, “He has a lot of pace and can easily play down the middle or out wide on either side. I’ve seen him score goals with his left foot, right foot and his head.”
Jackson’s assessment was understandable, given Stewart had netted 17 goals for Falkirk the previous season and other clubs were also said to be chasing him. However, despite impressing in pre-season, Stewart was one of a number of players who struggled at the start of the season. Jackson left as manager four games in, Phil Parkinson arrived and shortly afterwards new signings took Stewart’s place. He now plays for Dundee.
Nevertheless, Falkirk did not abandon their claim for €330,000. Width of a Post understands that negotiations took place between the two clubs in the autumn of 2011 and that a fee of £76k was almost settled upon, but City decided that this was still too high and talks stalled. In December 2011, the Telegraph & Argus reported that, “City’s stance has never changed on the striker since they signed him in the summer. They have always maintained that Stewart was a free agent after his contract with the Bairns ran out the week before he arrived at Valley Parade.”
Now FIFA have ruled that City must pay within 30 days, although they have the right to appeal. It would seem there are two issues surrounding this debate: do City owe Falkirk money (they claim not to because Stewart was out of contract) and how much is Mark Stewart worth? On the latter, his performances both before, during and after would suggest not the €250,000 (£215,620) that FIFA have concluded.
I personally thought Stewart was an okay player and worked hard for the team, but his lack of goal threat was an obvious issue for a side that was struggling to find the back of the net.