ANOTHER VIEW: Time we put the FA in goal

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The Independent Online
I take no pleasure in being vindicated for my Commons expos of soccer corruption. It makes me angry that my beloved game of football has been dragged into the gutter. This week's arrest of three of the biggest names in football for alleged match-fixing, and the conviction of Dennis Wise for an assault outside Terry Venables' own nightclub, are but the latest in a series of scandals to put soccer on the front, rather than the back, pages.

I am even more angry that the Government is refusing to step in and bring to book the arrogant men who run our national sport, which stands accused of ripping off its fans to the tune of millions.

As an Arsenal fan, I was sad to see George Graham sacked, but his behaviour appears inexcusable and the club had to act. It is wrong for one manager to be used as a scapegoat for alleged financial irregularities, and the Premier League Commission must come up with answers on the other transfer allegations. The Inland Revenue has already recovered £16m in back tax and penalties from other shady deals.

As millions of pounds disappear from the game in back-handers, bungs and fixes, it is the fans paying ludicrous ticket prices who pick up the shortfall.

In other countries where similar problems have arisen, more is being done to restore the reputation of the game and rebuild the confidence of ordinary fans. In Australia, the Senate has ordered an inquiry into allegations after the football authorities recognised that they could not adequately deal with the matter internally.

Here, we have the Minister for Sport, Iain Sproat, saying that it's up to the game to police itself, despite the huge amounts of public money that go into football.

Meanwhile, the Football Association has shown a complacency which beggars belief. When the first allegations appeared, it passed the buck to the Premier League rather than dirty its own hands.

The FA is clearly not up to the task of restoring faith in the game. The Premier League seems to have only one objective - to make money. This it has been allowed to get away with: the FA is more interested in short-term gain than in the long-term good of the game.

There are many decent, hard-working people in football, all of whom are being tainted by the sleaze. It is in their interests, just as much as the supporters', to have the cosy relationships and self-regulation of football broken up. That is why my original demand in Parliament for an independent inquiry is even more urgent than before, especially after this week.

Nobody knows the scale of corruption. We need an independent figure appointed by the sports minister, with powers to summon evidence and question witnesses under oath, to get to the bottom of all these allegations.

Football is a multimillion-pound business, yet it is run like a seedy private club. The Minister for Sport must not be allowed to sit idly by any longer.

The writer is Labour MP for Vauxhall.

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