Terry Venables' solicitor, Ian Burton, said yesterday that the England coach's preparation for the European Championship this summer would not be affected by the Department of Trade and Industry's decision to start proceedings to disqualify him as a director.
Burton said any hearing against the England coach was unlikely to be heard fully until the autumn of next year or the beginning of 1997. "Anything that may happen before then, including preparatory hearings, will not require Mr Venables to spend any time with me, or in court," Burton said.
His comments came after taking advice from the Treasury Solicitor's Department, which wrote to Venables a few days ago informing of the disqualification proceedings and the decision not to prosecute him with criminal offences.
The Association yesterday remained faithful to the England coach in spite of the latest controversy over his business dealings. "The position remains unchanged. He remains as coach of the England football team," a spokesman said.
Following an 18-month investigation, the DTI informed Venables that disqualification proceedings are to start against him in connection with his directorship of Scribes West, Edennote, a company now in liquidation, Tottenham Hotspur and Tottenham Hotspur and Athletic Club.
The DTI declined to comment yesterday, even as to the existence of an inquiry, although its officers sent letters to Venables and his associate, Eddie Ashby, in the past few days.
One of the letters, from Andrew Leithead, the assistant treasury solicitor, to Venables, contains the following: "It appears to the Secretary of State that your conduct as a director of the above named companies makes you unfit to be considered in the management of a company and that it is expedient in the public interest that a disqualification order should be made against you."
Another letter, however, clears Venables of any criminal offences. "On the basis of the information presently available to us, the DTI does not propose to bring proceedings against you in connection with criminal offences under section 447 of the Financial Services Act 1986 concerning Edennote, Tottenham Hotspur plc and Tottenham Hotspur and Athletic Club and in connection with offences of Aiding and Abetting under section 11 of the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986 concerning Scribes West Ltd, Tottenham Hotspur and Tottenham Hotspur and Athletic Club."
If the DTI's disqualification action is successful, Venables could be barred from being a director for up to 15 years. It is believed the allegations against him in relation to Tottenham relate to payments made to agents in breach of League rules. In relation to Scribes West, the charges are believed to relate to trading when the company was insolvent, although yesterday it was pointed out that he invested pounds 500,000 of his own money in the company. The charge in relation to Edennote is believed to concern wrongful accounting.
Venables denies all charges and said yesterday that he would await with interest to see whether any prosecutions might follow against past or present directors at Tottenham. "There have been various offences in relation to League regulations which have been highly publicised, many of which must also be breaches of other regulatory bodies. I find it very hard to understand why I am singled out in regard to matters concerning Tottenham," he said. Tottenham have already been fined pounds 1.5m as a result of making pounds 500,000 unrecoverable loans to players and as a result of being involved in three questionable transfer transactions.
Venables' close business associate, Eddie Ashby, has been informed that he is to be pursued for potential criminal offences relating to his alleged part in the management of three companies, Scribes West and the two Tottenham companies, while being an undischarged bankrupt.
Ashby, who intends to fight the charges in court, said yesterday that from late August 1991 until his departure in May 1993 the Tottenham board was aware of his bankruptcy and that in September 1992 his appointment was reaffirmed in front of the company's auditors.
Venables' legal minefield, page 31