Football: Kinnear denies bet irregularity

JOE KINNEAR, the Wimbledon manager, denied yesterday that any of his players had breached tough new Football Association rules on betting.

The FA has asked Wimbledon to explain "as a matter of urgency" a reported claim by Kinnear that his players had put bets on themselves at 66-1 to win the Worthington Cup.

Kinnear said: "It's an absolute joke and it's very sad indeed. When I said the lads had a few quid on us I was talking about friends of mine - not the players. I also said we took 66-1 about finding Lord Lucan - but I see that did not appear in any papers."

However, what did appear in the papers, in last night's London Evening Standard, was a column by Wimbledon's Jamaican international midfielder, Robbie Earle.

"We would really like to go on and win the competition," Earle wrote, "not just for ourselves but for Joe Kinnear, even though some of the lads had a flutter on us at 66-1." Who the "lads" were was not explained.

Wimbledon reached the last four of the Worthington Cup by beating Chelsea on Tuesday. Tightened regulations on betting in the game were drawn up by the FA last year which declared that no betting of any kind would be allowed. This followed a report by Sir John Smith in the wake of the collapse of the match-fixing case in which Bruce Grobbelaar, John Fashanu and Hans Segers were all cleared.

Following Sir John's report, the FA issued a blanket ban on all types of betting by players, managers and directors - even if it was on their team winning - as that could possibly lead to a financial temptation to try to influence the opposition.

The report had warned: "The rules have been widely disregarded and if they continue to be broken, it will be at the offender's peril. The new rule is clear - you should not bet."

Premier League chairmen have set up a working party to examine the prospect of appointing full-time referees.

The chairmen decided at their quarterly meeting in London that the concept should be further investigated before they would consider giving it more serious consideration.

They heard a presentation from the Premier League referees' officer, Philip Don, who will now work alongside representatives of three top-flight clubs to examine the pros and cons of the idea.