Sam Allardyce, the Bolton manager, was last night accused of receiving transfer bung payments in the BBC Panorama undercover sting into corruption in football and there was another "tapping-up" allegation against Chelsea - which, if proved, could leave the Premiership champions open to a damaging points deduction.
The eagerly anticipated BBC investigation has been the source of fascination and anxiety within English football since it emerged earlier this month that it had uncovered evidence about some of the biggest names in the game. The investigation focused on Allardyce and Chelsea's director of youth football, Frank Arnesen, who is accused of making an illegal approach to Nathan Porritt, 16, a highly rated academy player at Middlesbrough.
The case against Allardyce, a candidate for the England manager's job last season, will attract the most attention and centres on the relationship between his son Craig, a former agent, and Peter Harrison, another licensed football agent. Harrison is secretly filmed boasting that he makes payments to Craig in order to bribe Sam to carry out transfers. On film Harrison says: "If I say, 'Listen, Sam, I'll give Craig some money'... he'll say, 'Yeah, OK, we'll do a deal.'"
The allegations of bung-taking made by Panorama have been denied by Allardyce, who told them that he has never, according to the BBC, " taken, asked for or received a bung".
Speaking after Bolton's 3-1 Carling Cup win at Walsall last night, Allardyce said: "I'll make a statement at some point, but you have to understand that I am doing my job and tonight has been very difficult.
"I'm aware of the situation, of course, but because I haven't seen anything of the programme, I need to have a look at that and take a view of it before I make any comment whatsoever. But if there are things being said wrong about Sam Allardyce, then believe me, I will be fighting them."
According to the BBC, Allardyce said "he would not condone any breaches of the FA rules whatever personal affection he has for his son". Before Bolton's match last night a Bolton spokesman told The Independent he was unavailable for comment.
With Lord Stevens' inquiry into corruption in English football to report on 2 October, there is great scrutiny of the financial propriety of the game and Allardyce has already pledged to defend his reputation.
The 51-year-old is a heroic figure at Bolton. He took the club into the Premiership in 2001 and has kept them there, reaching the 2004 Carling Cup final along the way, with a team shrewdly built on foreign players on short-term contracts.
The allegations against Allardyce are complicated and involve payments made to his son Craig via other agents in return, it is alleged by the Panorama investigation, for Sam spending the club's money on certain players. Panorama also makes allegations that it has secretly filmed evidence from two other agents who claim to have made illegal payments to the Bolton manager one personally.
The programme also claims to have evidence that three specific player transfers involved payments to Craig Allardyce despite the fact, the BBC claims, that he was banned at the time from doing deals for Bolton.
Those transfers are identified as the signings of the Israeli defender Tal Ben Haim, who arrived in July 2004, the Japanese midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata, who played last season and has since retired, and the goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi from Oman, signed in January. The Panorama investigation alleges that Craig received "around £50,000" for the Ben Haim deal.
In the Nakata and Al-Habsi deals, the agent secretly paying Craig, the BBC alleges, was Harrison. It was by duping Harrison into believing that the BBC undercover reporters were investors interested in buying his business that they were able to secure information about, as well as access to, Craig Allardyce.
The Independent understands that Arnesen's approach was made in December last year, and a Middlesbrough source has confirmed that no permission was sought.
In a meeting with the player's agent, Harrison, Arnesen is said to have offered a financial inducement to the player via Harrison to move to Chelsea. At the meeting Arnesen apparently said he was willing to offer Porritt, then 15, £150,000 over three years to move to Stamford Bridge.
In the secretly filmed footage, Harrison suggested of Porritt it was " 99.9 per cent sure he's leaving Middlesbrough". Arnesen said: " One-fifty thousand spread in three years and we can do it like a royalty bonus and this and this. Salary we can talk about that."
Arnesen offered the money, even discussing how he would deploy Porritt in a specific formation. Harrison was filmed admitting that Middlesbrough did not know he was touting Porritt around. Harrison also offered the player to Liverpool. In the event, Porritt, now 16, decided against moving to Chelsea and stayed at Middlesbrough. He signed forms to become a Boro academy player this summer.
Chelsea declined to comment last night, saying a statement would be issued if necessary, after the programme had been transmitted. Club officials privately insist there is no chance of being docked points, even though that spectre apparently hangs over them after being found guilty of "tapping up" Ashley Cole last year.
In June 2005, Chelsea were handed a suspended three-point deduction for that offence, the penalty suspended for a year. In other words, if they were found guilty of another offence, in the 2005-06 season, the penalty would be applied.
Chelsea privately believe that because the Cole offence contravened Rule K of Premier League rules governing players' contracts they would have to be found guilty of another Rule K breach to be hit with a points deduction. An unauthorised approach for Porritt, however if proven, and Chelsea will argue they broke no industry rules would fall under Rule N, governing youth development.
This logic was backed up by a Premier League insider, who said: "In practical terms, the rules effectively say it's not as serious an offence to tap up a youth player as an established player." But the League will not decide what, if any action to take, until reviewing last night's programme. It has not definitively ruled out action against Chelsea.
Leeds United have already succeeded in obtaining an inquiry into their allegation that Chelsea illegally approached three of their academy players last year. That is a joint FA and Premier League venture and is under way. Leeds claimed that Chelsea signed Michael Woods and Tom Taiwo after making illegal approaches, while a third player, Danny Rose, spurned Chelsea's approach.
Fearsome wanderer who brought Bolton back to the big time
Uncompromising, tough - and highly successful - Bolton Wanderers have embodied the theory that teams must mirror their maker in the seven years since Sam Allardyce returned to the club where he made his reputation as a fearsome centre-half throughout the 1970s.
The 52-year-old from Dudley, a passionate Wolverhampton Wanderers fan as a boy, has been part of the fabric at the Reebok Stadium and the club's former Burnden Park home for over 30 years, having joined Bolton as a schoolboy and made his first-team debut in 1973. Allardyce spent the first 11 years of his professional career at Burnden, being part of the side that won promotion to the top flight in 1978, before joining Sunderland two years later and making 214 appearances for the club prior to embarking on a nomadic period that took in Millwall, Preston and Tampa Bay Rowdies among others.
If the journeyman approach to his final years as a player was through design, then the extensive travels of his early days as a manager were purely accidental, although it is as an innovative coach that he has made his finest impact at the highest level.
A player-coach role alongside Brian Talbot at West Bromwich Albion provided Allardyce with his first introduction to life on the other side of the white line in 1989, although that position ended in dismissal for the pair as relegation to the Second Division loomed. He ventured to Limerick for his first permanent manager's job in 1991-92 and won promotion in his only season at the club, and then spent two promising seasons at Blackpool only to be sacked once more in an episode that still rankles. The Tangerines had topped the Second Division throughout the 1995-96 season but twice blew their chance of promotion, first by slipping out of the top two on the final day of the season and then by losing in the play-off semi-finals to Bradford. That summer Allardyce received his P45 and a lesson in managerial loyalty that he has never forgotten.
He returned to management with Notts County in 1996-97, too late to save the club from relegation, but instantly took them out of the Third Division when they won the title by 19 points the following season. Twelve months later came the call to return to Bolton, where his managerial career has prospered.
It has not always been an upward curve under Allardyce, the 2000 play-off defeat to Ipswich Town delaying progress despite a campaign in which they reached the FA Cup semi-finals for the first time since 1958 and narrowly missed out on a place in the final after losing to Aston Villa.
The following season, however, Bolton beat Preston 3-0 in the play-off final and, though their first two seasons back in the Premiership entailed close calls with relegation, Allardyce gradually began to turn a potential yo-yo outfit into the established club he presides over today. Through his use of the foreign transfer market, a willingness to give ageing or troubled players one final shot at the spotlight and a scientific approach to training, the Bolton manager took his club to eighth in the Premiership and a Carling Cup final appearance in 2004, sixth and a place in the Uefa Cup in 2005 and eighth again last season. It demonstrates his success that this was considered a disappointment by the club, although that did not discourage the Football Association from placing Allardyce on its shortlist to succeed Sven Goran Eriksson.
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