Stevens report to suggest improved policing of agents

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The Independent Online

The Lord Stevens report into corruption in football is today due to make sweeping proposals about changes to the way in which the game is governed, and is expected to be critical of the Football Association. However, the Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, is understood to have smoothed over the report's findings with the FA in talks with senior figures there this week.

The FA has been briefed on many of the major points of the report, part of which will be released this afternoon, and is understood to be relatively at ease at what is to be disclosed. Reports in the News of the World on Sunday said that the 143-year-old governing body would be described as "unfit to govern" football but Lord Stevens is not thought to have gone that far.

Instead, the FA chief executive, Brian Barwick, has been reassured that the report will not be an all-out attack on his organisation but will make constructive points about how the transfer system and the regulation of agents can best be policed. The FA has given full co-operation to Lord Stevens' team of investigators and has been candid about where it feels it can improve its performance.

The inquiry was commissioned by Scudamore in March after a spate of allegations by people, such as the Luton manager, Mike Newel,l and the former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, about corruption in the game. Lord Stevens, a former Metropolitan police commissioner, was introduced with the claim that if there was corruption in English football he was the man to uncover it.

The Premier League's original announcement of an inquiry seemed to wrong-foot the FA, coming on the same day that it presented its agreement with Eriksson that he would step down after the World Cup. The Premier League has been the prime mover in the process and of late the suggestion has been that in the absence of a high-profile scalp for the inquiry it would be the governing body to come in for the heaviest criticism.

Since the inquiry began the FA has added staff to its compliance unit which makes decisions about charges, puts together disciplinary cases and draws up new rules for agents and doping. The new regulations will be adopted in the new year.

However, the biggest criticism likely to be levelled at Stevens' team today is that they are not likely to name individuals or clubs who they believe have broken rules. At least three agents have refused to hand over tax records and bank accounts. All agents who had taken part in more than three transactions during the inquiry's time frame - from January 2004 to January 2006 - were to be questioned but sources say that has not happened.

Revealing the names of those under suspicion may, Stevens is likely to say, prejudice a charge - either under the FA's rules or in the courts. His work will end today and the tricky job of bringing charges against the accused is likely to be an unwelcome postscript for the FA.

The report will be presented to the Premier League's three board members - Scudamore, Dave Richards and Mike Baker - and then a briefing sent to each of the 20 member clubs as well as those who have since been relegated but were part of the investigation. Not all the report will be shown to the media.

In October, Stevens said he had narrowed down the 362 deals in the period to 39, between eight clubs, that he was still investigating. Today he is not guaranteed to have ruled that all those 39 deals have been approved.

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