Holmes: Inquiry's duty is the future

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The Independent Online

Jon Holmes, one of the country's more respected sports agents, has warned that the Premier League will be a laughing stock if the current inquiry into irregular transfer payments gives football a clean bill of health. But he believes the most important thing is to implement a system which makes corruption much less likely in the future.

Lord Stevens, who has been investigating 362 transfers involving Premiership clubs, was granted an extra two months to look more closely at 39 of them, involving eight different clubs. By the first week of December, he and his team of investigators from the Quest security firm will either "sign off" those remaining deals or pass them to the Premier League for further action.

Holmes, who has more than 30 years' experience as an agent and was briefly acting chairman of Leicester City, said yesterday: "If they do nothing at the end of the day and say that this proves football is whiter than white, everyone will just laugh at them. If they nail people and punish them, all well and good. But what they should be doing is coming up with recommendations to change the system. That seems to me to be more relevant than this sort of witch-hunt, which, as the Panorama programme proved, is very difficult to do."

Holmes wrote in The Independent recently that he has twice been offered a bribe in connection with transfer deals. These are understood to predate the formation of the Premier League in 1992, but he is prepared to provide details to the Football Association, who also have an ongoing inquiry into corruption.

It is clear that Lord Stevens has already discovered flaws in the system, which will form the basis of his recommendations. "The work conducted by my team has led me to make a number of observations regarding the administration and monitoring of the transfer market," he said. Although those observations have not yet been made public, he is expected to demand greater transparency on all sides.

Even then, as with all previous independent reports, the authorities will not be obliged to implement it in full. Richard Scudamore, the Premier League's chief executive, admitted: "I cannot give an absolute commitment that we'll take on all his recommendations. But we'll have a serious debate about them."

In a week when the FA charged three little-known agents with minor offences, Scudamore also emphasised that the Premier League inquiry is aimed only at club employees, not agents, from whom greater cooperation is being sought, including examination of bank accounts.

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