More clubs to face Premier inquiry

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The Independent Online
FOOTBALL The Premier League inquiry into football's illegal payments scandal will cast its net far and wide in the new year to include another "two or three" Premiership managers, while as many as five more clubs are expected to come under close examination over their transfer dealings abroad.

Rick Parry, the Premier League chief executive who heads the special investigation team, confirmed yesterday that more managers will be asked to come forward to follow George Graham, who last week gave evidence to the panel. However, a source close to the Premier League indicated yesterday that as many as five Premiership clubs could be brought into the probe, as Parry and his team delve into every corner of the game to counter accusations of a whitewash.

Brian Clough has already met the inquiry in relation to the allegations of a "bung" that followed Teddy Sheringham's transfer from Nottingham Forest to Tottenham Hotspur. Graeme Souness could also be involved, because two signings he made while in chargeof Liverpool - those involving the Norwegian Stig Inge Bjornebye and Torben Piechnik from Denmark - have been looked at by the special Inland Revenue unit investigating professional football at all levels.

In total, there are more than 23 transfers involving Scandinavian players coming to England under scrutiny. Many involve the Norwegian agent, Rune Hauge, who conducted John Jensen's move from Brondby to Arsenal in which Graham is alleged to have receiveda payment of £285,000 which he later repaid to Arsenal.

Despite the widening of the inquiry, Parry insists the game is not riddled with corruption. "There is no evidence to support that - there is precious little hard evidence," he said.

"We will be talking to two or three Premiership managers early in the new year, together with other officials, but we are not pre-judging. The overriding impression I have from Premier clubs is that they want to run things straight, and in fact many of the transfers pre-date the formation of the Premier League. At the risk of putting my foot in my mouth, I will say that so far we don't have too much evidence of transfers in the last six months being at risk."

Parry is ready to call on help from Fifa, football's world governing body, as well as from Uefa, and believes that the creation of a permanent watchdog to guard against future controversies may not be too far away. "I don't want to get into the business of unnecessary bureaucracy, but it seems clear to me that we now have to keep monitoring the game carefully to make sure it is clean and honest. At the moment, we have a special commission looking into allegations that have emerged about the game in thiscountry.

"But inevitably, with so many transfers of players to and from foreign clubs, other country associations come into the picture. We need Uefa's help and probably Fifa's help as well to draw up hard rules and regulations for transfer dealings between clubsof one country and another."

That view was supported by the head of Fifa's legal department, who said the increase in the number of transfers it had been asked to investigate in 1994 was "dramatic".

"We have been called in to check around 400 cases," Michelle Zenruffin said . "Some of the cases are very simple, but the volume of transfer litigation is increasing. I believe it is because of the worldwide economic crisis."

n Ian Taylor will today become Brian Little's first signing for Aston Villa in a part-exchange deal that takes Guy Whittingham to Sheffield Wednesday. Villa will pay a £300,000 cash adjustment for Taylor.

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