Top managers identified in 'bung' scandal

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The Independent Football

A football agent at the centre of the BBC's undercover sting on English football has been secretly filmed claiming that he knows "six to eight" managers who would accept bungs ­ illegal payments in player transfers.

Panorama's highly anticipated investigation into corruption in English football began last night with the Luton Town manager, Mike Newell, publicly naming for the first time the agents that he claimed in January had offered him transfer bungs. One of those agents was on film claiming that corruption was widespread among clubs and that certain managers accepted "bungs".

The agent, who cannot be named for legal reasons, tells Panorama's investigators: "There's managers out there who take bungs all day long. [Name deleted], you know that, takes bungs all day long. We've got [name deleted] FC, yep, all day long." He also says later in the filming: "I would say to you comfortably there's six to eight managers we could definitely approach and they'd be up for this, no problem."

Newell spoke on the BBC Ten O'Clock News and identified the agents who, it is alleged, were secretly filmed by Panorama in their "Undercover: Football's Dirty Secrets" programme, which is scheduled to show tonight on BBC1 at 9pm. The Luton manager was responsible for forcing the alleged transfer bung culture back on to the agenda in January when he accused English football of being rife with managers and agents arranging illegal payments over transfers.

The programme has caused widespread interest and alarm in English football and last night's revelations from Newell were a taster of what is to come.

Newell, who claims he has reported both agents to the Football Association, said: "These are the people who tried to pay me money. It's great for me to see what I've just seen on the film. It does vindicate me and it does vilify them."

In January, Newell was interviewed by the FA following his comments that corruption was widespread in English football. At the time he said, "if George Graham [the former Arsenal manager sacked in 1995 for accepting an illegal payment as part of a transfer] is the only one [manager] guilty of taking a bung in the last 10 years, I would be absolutely amazed."

At the time Newell was supported by the then Queen's Park Rangers manager, Ian Holloway, now at Plymouth, and as rumours and allegations refused to clear, the Premier League chief executive, Richard Scudamore, launched an inquiry in January. That inquiry will report its initial findings on 2 October.

The Panorama programme comes at a particularly sensitive time for the Premier League. The programme makers are understood to have such a wealth of material that they have passed on part of their investigation to Newsnight, who were last night due to screen an exposé into the practice of football agents breaking Fifa guidelines to buy foreign clubs through secret ownership schemes.

That Newsnight investigation carried a hint of more revelations with secret footage of a meeting at a club in Europe. The managing director of the club was visited by an English agent who discussed the possibility of buying the club. Under article three of the Fifa rules that govern licensed agents it makes clear they are not permitted to own football clubs.

The rules read: "An applicant may not, under any circumstances, hold a position with Fifa, a confederation, a national association, a club or any organisation connected with these institutions."

The BBC also claims to have evidence that the agent in question discussed an ownership arrangement in which the identity of the new owners could be kept secret. It was suggested that the agents in question buy the club through an offshore financial arrangement.

While many of the identities of the individuals in question ­ in last night's Newsnight as well as Panorama tonight ­ are known to The Independent they cannot be named for legal reasons. Many of those who have been contacted by the BBC to respond to the allegations against them have made it clear, through their lawyers, that they will be fighting any suggestion of wrongdoing.

Last night concerns were raised about the Panorama programme. Sam Allardyce, the Bolton manager, told BBC Radio Five Live that he was "concerned" about potential allegations in the investigation about him and his son Craig, a former agent.

Allardyce said: "We are concerned but at the moment, because I am linked with it, from a legal point of view, I cannot say any more than that. I will take a view after the programme has come out because I do not know what is in it."

A football agent, Charles Collymore, issued a statement last night denying he had either offered or accepted an illegal payment. The statement read: "A third-party introduction led to a meeting with a Mr Knut Auf dem Berge. I became suspicious of his alleged claim to be a front man for an investor.

"In seeking to uncover his true identity and the validity of his claim, I made some wholly untrue statements to determine his real agenda. I can categorically state that I have never offered nor accepted a 'bung', to or from anyone."

The Independent first broke the story that the Panorama team had secretly filmed agents and managers on 8 September and since then some individuals have publicly defended themselves against suggestions of wrongdoing.

The Portsmouth manager, Harry Redknapp, said on Saturday he was "a one million per cent innocent party" and was ready to take action against the BBC.

Middlesbrough issued a statement last week announcing that they had not been contacted by the BBC over any allegations and were not part of the Panorama sting. However, the BBC are staking a great deal on the investigation and could yet face a boycott from managers they accuse ­ the broadcasters have not been granted an interview from Sir Alex Ferguson since a programme about the Manchester United manager and his son, Jason, more than two years ago.

Panorama's makers have spent the past two weeks editing material for a one-hour slot and are confident that they have strong evidence despite the counter claims of the lawyers of the accused. They have contacted three Premiership club employees, five football agents and three Premiership clubs about alleged rule-breaking.

The BBC promises that it will "rock football". A statement said: "On the eve of the official Lord Stevens inquiry report into skulduggery in the beautiful game, this secret camera investigation ­ naming top agents, clubs and managers who are cheating their supporters ­ delivers evidence he won't have but which will rock football."

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