£80 a week Rooney was 'exploited' as youth
Wayne Rooney was exploited when the teenage prodigy signed his first commercial contract, the boss of the players' union told a court yesterday.
And Gordon Taylor, chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), suggested that what had happened to Paul Gascoigne showed what could go wrong for talented young stars if they were not looked after properly.
Defending his members, he said they were not "cash cows" who lost their principles for money.
And he said Gascoigne was now having to come to the PFA for help to keep a roof over his head.
Mr Taylor was giving expert witness evidence at a hearing in which Wayne and Coleen Rooney are being sued by Proactive, the sports agency Rooney signed with in 2003 aged just 17 after signing his first professional football contract with his home town club Everton.
The eight-year deal was brokered by Proactive director Paul Stretford, with the firm getting a 20pc commission on sponsorship deals agreed with the likes of Nike and Coca-Cola.
Rooney soon went from an £80-a-week Everton trainee living in his parent's council house in Croxteth, Liverpool, to agreeing £1 million a year deals with the likes of Nike, the court has heard.
But when Mr Stretford and Proactive parted company on bad terms in October 2008, the commission payments stopped.
Proactive is suing the Rooneys for the non-payment of £4.3m in commission it says it is entitled to under the terms of the contracts agreed.
Mr Taylor told the hearing, now in its third week at Manchester Mercantile Court, he thought players needed protection and that Rooney had been exploited as he burst on to the football scene.
Today is likely to be the final day of evidence, with legal argument tomorrow and the case to be concluded on Friday. However, a final written decision by the judge is not expected for some time.