Football: Premier League to investigate Graham claims

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The Independent Online
The Premier League commission of inquiry will investigate allegations that George Graham accepted a £285,000 payment as part of the John Jensen transfer deal when they meet the Arsenal manager and other officials from the Highbury club later this week. So concerned are the investigators by claims which have put Graham's future in doubt that they have called for discussions at the earliest opportunity.

Graham is still in charge of Arsenal but how much longer that is the case could depend on whether he is to face Football Association charges as a result of the accusations. A brief statement from the club yesterday fell some way short of total support for their beleaguered boss.

The Arsenal managing director, Ken Friar, would only say: "George Graham is, and remains, the manager of the club. As we confirmed yesterday, it is not our intention to give any further comment ahead of the forthcoming Premier League inquiry."

Some relief for Arsenal came with last night's victory at Manchester City. Afterwards Graham appeared relaxed, even joking with a television interviewer that he had taken pressure off himself by telephoning Paul Merson (who is away receiving rehabilitation treatment after his cocaine confessions). The Gunners manager denied having tendered his resignation and said: "There has been a lot of hysterical reporting. As I said yesterday I have not profited from any of Arsenal's transactions in the transfer market. That says everything."

Graham smiled when it was suggested that he might take heart from Arsenal's statement confirming he remained in charge, saying: "That's usually the kiss of death isn't it? No, if anyone is in any doubt about my ability they should just look at the trophycabinet to see what's been achieved."

The Premier League inquiry may call on evidence from Rune Hauge, the Norwegian agent who brokered Jensen's transfer from the Danish club Brondby two years ago, and is said to have received nearly £700,000 through his Guernsey-based company, Interclub Ltd, as part of the deal, some of which he then passed on.

The Mail on Sunday reported that Graham was understood to have repaid the money to Arsenal. The Highbury view is that the allegations are personal to Graham and he has to resolve them himself.

While there are dissenting voices following Arsenal's failure to make an impact in the championship, Graham still commands widespread boardroom support with a record showing six trophies in his eight years at the club.

The club has insisted it acted properly and will co-operate fully with the inquiry team which comprises Rick Parry, the Premier League's chief executive, Steve Coppell, the chief executive of the League Managers' Association, and Robert Reid QC. They hope to announce their verdict and possible recommendations to the FA early in the new year.

In another controversy involving allegations of corruption in the game , the Football Association has ruled that Bruce Grobbelaar can apply for the inquiry into claims that he accepted bribes to be suspended, pending the outcome of police inquiries.

Solicitors for Grobbelaar, who denies the allegations, had claimed that it was "contrary to natural justice" for the Southampton goalkeeper to deal with police and FA inquiries simultaneously.

The FA has charged the 37-year-old goalkeeper with conduct likely to bring the game into disrepute.

Uefa Cup threat, page 38