Football: 'Bungs' inquiry finally completed

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The Independent Online
Football's long-awaited "bungs" inquiry is now complete and the potentially explosive final report of its three-man team is expected to be delivered this week to the board of the Premier League and the FA. The two governing bodies will then study its findings before deciding how to proceed and when to publish, probably in two to three weeks.

I understand that the investigation - begun more than three years ago by Rick Parry, formerly the chief executive of the Premier League and now holder of the same post at Liverpool, Steve Coppell, the Crystal Palace manager, and Robert Reid QC - is likely both to name names and make general points about transfer dealings within the English game. Lawyers are examining the report for potential legal pitfalls before it is handed over.

"We understand the commission of inquiry is close to reporting," Mike Lee, the Premier League's spokesman, confirmed. "Their report and recommendations will be studied by the League in the very near future and will also go to the FA."

The investigation began as the result of a revelation in a court case involving the Tottenham Hotspur chairman, Alan Sugar, and the then chief executive Terry Venables that, in breach of FA rules, a sum of pounds 50,000 had been paid to a third party to expedite the 1992 transfer of Teddy Sheringham from Nottingham Forest, then managed by Brian Clough, to Spurs.

In a separate case, the inquiry turned up payments totalling pounds 425,000 from the Norwegian agent Rune Hauge to the then Arsenal manager George Graham following the transfers of John Jensen and Pal Lydersen. Two years ago, Graham was banned from the game for a year as a result of an interim report.

Among several delays to the final report, mostly to do with seeking to avoid possible legal challenges, there was a pending legal case against Hauge in Norway which precluded the investigating team using certain material. The case has now collapsed.

As well as dealing with individual cases, the report is, I understand, likely to reach conclusions about the role of agents in the modern game - old FA rules are now all but ignored in these more commercial days - and the nature of transfer dealings, in addition to clubs' accounting procedures.

Any recommendations regarding rule changes made to the Premier League board, which comprises Sir John Quinton and Peter Leaver, the new chief executive, are likely to be implemented to complement its own rule book.

The League, however, cannot find anyone guilty or not guilty of breaking FA rules in place before its own inception. Consequently, any disciplinary action will fall to the FA, whose duty it was ultimately to judge the Graham case. In short, the FA will be concerned with the past, the League with the future.

Although recent reports have suggested that at least 10 clubs, four of them from the Premier League, have made peace with the Inland Revenue over sums said to be in the millions, the inquiry is likely to conclude that "bungs", or inducements, to oil a transfer are not widespread. The practice is also likely to be less prevalent in the future, the inquiry may conclude, with more businesslike plcs running clubs.

The inquiry team is believed to be reasonably content with its work, having to balance legal constraints, potential accusations of a whitewash (hinted at by Graham, who believed himself to be a scapegoat), and a desire to wipe football's slate clean.

I understand, however, that even at this late stage there could be new information to be gleaned that could strengthen the report further. The game waits with a mixture of trepidation and eagerness.