FA goes on the attack over Graham

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Football Correspondent

The Football Association went on the offensive yesterday as George Graham prepared to step up his appeal for public sympathy. Having sold his version of events surrounding the "bung" controversy to a tabloid newspaper, Graham is now to plug his book about the affair on radio and television.

The FA, tired of Graham's self-styled martyrdom, yesterday responded by releasing its own version of events. It reads differently to Graham's. It is also a far more effective way of dealing with the unabashed former Arsenal manager than another disrepute charge. Now the public can judge Graham directly. They may feel he escaped lightly.

The FA said it had "a right, and a responsibility" to set the record straight. The "Statement of Reasons" which it released was drawn up during the summer, after the disrepute charge which ended with Graham being banned from "all football activities" for one year.

Neither Graham, nor Arsenal, emerge with credit. Graham has contended that he thought the monies - pounds 140,500 paid in cash in December 1993, and pounds 285,000 paid by bankers' draft the following August - were gifts from Rune Hauge, for Graham's assistance in helping to establish him as a major agent.

But the statement notes the timing, and size of the payments, are too closely related to the Paal Lydersen and John Jensen transfers to be coincidental. It also questions the conduct of the deals.

In Lydersen's case Graham told Arsenal he would cost pounds 500,000 plus pounds 50,000 based on appearances. He then agreed a deal with IK Start for pounds 215,000 - a differential of pounds 285,000-pounds 335,000. On 5 December 1991 Arsenal paid Start pounds 500,000 (Hauge having explained they needed a bigger figure for work permit reasons).

Start passed on pounds 310,000 to Hauge's Channel Islands-based company, Interclub. Of that Lydersen received pounds 25,000, leaving pounds 283,000. Ten days later, in the Park Lane Hotel, Hauge handed roughly half to Graham in cash. "What a Christmas present - fantastic," thought Graham.

For eight months Hauge gave Graham no further money. Then Graham, through Hauge, bought Jensen from Brondby. Arsenal paid pounds 1.57m; pounds 750-800,000 of that went to Brondby, via Hauge. Jensen's cut was about pounds 200,000 - leaving pounds 550-600,000. A month later a banker's draft, for roughly half that amount, arrived in Graham's account. Coincidence?

Arsenal had no inkling of this until April 1994 when a letter arrived from the Inland Revenue suggesting that coaching staff had received "payments...which have emanated from transfer fees paid by [Arsenal]". At this point Steve Burtenshaw confessed to receiving pounds 50,000. Burtenshaw is still being investigated by the Premier League. He is also still at Arsenal.

In September, with Hauge being investigated by the Norwegian tax authorities, and Arsenal's directors talking to Brondby's, Graham told Arsenal about the money. In December, with rumours increasing, he paid both "gifts", plus interest, to Arsenal. Why, one might wonder, did he not return the money to Hauge, unless he knew it had not been Hauge's to give.

Arsenal, with a Cup-Winners' Cup still gleaming in the trophy room, said "thanks very much", and did not move to dismiss their manager. Only when the Premier League inquiry was about to report did they act.

It is a grubby affair, and Graham has done the game no favours by raking over it once more. One last point to reiterate: the inquiry does not clear Graham of deliberately fiddling the deals. It merely says "we cannot be sure that Mr Graham's role in each deal was pre-determined to line his own pocket". Not proven, rather than not guilty.

The FA report, page 26