Football: FA charges Tottenham with misconduct on player loans: Doubt cast over Premiership status as investigations continue

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The Independent Online
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR'S place in the Premiership was put in jeopardy last night when they were charged with misconduct by the Football Association over an alleged failure to disclose financial arrangements with players.

The charges are not dissimilar to those Swindon Town were found guilty of in 1990. They led to Swindon being denied the place in the then First Division they had acquired in the play-offs. Originally they were relegated to the Third Division but, on appeal, were placed in the Second.

A three-man Premier League inquiry team spent more than six months investigating allegations that Tottenham had made interest-free loans of over pounds 400,000 to players between 1985 and 1989 and that these loans were never repaid.

There is also a question mark over the club's failure to notify the authorities in 1991 when the allegations first came to light. A commission of inquiry will be set up but when and where it will sit will depend on the speed of Tottenham's response. They have 14 days to answer the charges.

The team of Robert Reid QC, the Premier League's chief executive, Rick Parry, and the former Crystal Palace manager, Steve Coppell, delivered their initial report to the FA almost two weeks ago although the loans were exposed by an ITV World in Action documentary last December.

The FA stresses that the charges are against the club and that no individuals are named. It is understood Terry Venables' position as England coach is not in jeopardy even though he was manager and chief executive at White Hart Lane between 1987 and 1993.

Ossie Ardiles, the present manager, and the former player Paul Gascoigne, who was transferred from Tottenham to the Italian club, Lazio, for pounds 5.5m in May 1992, are alleged to be among the recipients of loans ranging from pounds 25,000 to pounds 70,000.

Ironically, Ardiles, a Spurs player between 1978 and 1987, was also manager of Swindon when they were found guilty of misconduct. Again the irregularities occurred before he took over the running of the team.

Tottenham argue they should not be held responsible for matters beyond the control of the present regime. The alleged offences occurred before Alan Sugar took control with Venables in 1991.

'These charges,' Sugar said last night, 'all of which relate to events which took place between June 1985 and October 1989, are now being considered and no specific response will be made until all the matters have been carefully scrutinised.

'The papers the FA are holding clearly demonstrate that as far back as August 1991, shortly after being appointed chairman of Tottenham, I made it known that I wanted certain matters disclosed to the football authorities.

'As soon as I gained full executive control of Tottenham, following the dismissal of Mr Venables in the summer of 1993, I called a meeting with the FA and the Premier League for the purpose of alerting them to possible past irregularities.

'Mr Kelly of the FA and Mr Parry of the Premier League attended the meeting and Mr Parry spent a considerable time, following the meeting, reading the documents in detail. Following that meeting, the FA instructed the Premier League to form a full detailed inquiry based on the information I had provided.

'My reasons why details of the alleged irregular loans were not disclosed to the authorities before I took full executive control at Tottenham are in the possession of the FA on a confidential basis.

'The board of Tottenham Hotspur has, and will continue to, co-operate fully with the FA inquiry.'

Even though the charge has been levelled at Spurs, the FA is continuing to investigate the club. In a statement last night its chief executive, Graham Kelly, said: 'The FA has been conducting inquiries following the receipt of information about the affairs of Tottenham Hotspur FC. These inquiries are continuing.'

One of the problems facing any ruling will be the legal complexity of dealing with a club who broke Football League rules and are now in the FA-run Premiership. This may provide a loophole through which Spurs, if found guilty, can escape.

Receivers to investigate

Venables' company, page 29

More football, page 34