Football League prepares new 'bung' report

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The Independent Online


The prospect of George Graham having some company in his exile moved a step closer yesterday when it was revealed that the Premier League's "bungbusters" commission would be issuing another report later this month.

The report is expected within two to four weeks, and it seems likely that there will be some evidence of impropriety, although not on such a grand scale as Graham's.

Rick Parry, the chief executive of the Premier League and a member of the three-man commission, said the report would deal with some of the 30 foreign transfers they were investigating.

Parry would not comment on whether further wrongdoing would be found but said, when discussing whether Graham's punishment set a precedent, that "every one of the cases is subtly different".

There are likely to be several other reports during the coming season. One of these will cover the two transfers which the commission was created to investigate - Teddy Sheringham's move from Nottingham Forest to Tottenham in August 1992 and Paul Gascoigne's from White Hart Lane to Lazio the same summer. These are the only two domestic transfers under review.

The cost of the commission has already exceeded pounds 500,000 and continues to escalate with weekly meetings between Parry, Steve Coppell and Robert Reid QC (when he is not involved in the Diane Modahl case).

Anyone found guilty will be punished by the Association, as Graham was. However, future miscreants will now be dealt with in-house by the Premier League, who are just concluding an overhaul of their regulations in an attempt to rid the game of its sleazy image for good.

"We are not of the view that the game has been rife with corruption," Parry said, "but we do believe that football will soon be one of the cleanest industries around."

The Premier League rulebook has been rewritten for the new season, with the result that club finances will be monitored more closely than ever before. Clubs will be independently audited and directors will be held responsible for verifying audits.

"If they are found to have signed a report which they know to be false, they will be subject to the severest penalties possible," Parry said. These are still being drawn up, but will include expulsion and the deduction of points.

Clubs have already improved accounting procedures following a detailed investigation by the Inland Revenue which has so far gleaned almost pounds 10m in back taxes, with some clubs paying back more than pounds 1m.

While some of this shortfall can be put down to merely misunderstanding tax laws as they referred to, for example, players' pension schemes, some of it had more sinister origins.

However, Parry said: "There has been a huge change in culture. There is a new ethos among chairmen, they recognise there is too much at stake and some of the men coming into the game do not want to have their reputations tarred with accusations of impropriety."

This "new mood" will shortly be given flesh by a code of conduct for chairmen, which it is hoped will be passed at a Premier League meeting on 17 August. A code for managers and clubs is already in place, and should prevent a repetition of Brian Little's messy move from Leicester to Aston Villa last season. "By and large, we expect contracts to be honoured," Parry said. "We want things to be handled with dignity."