English football's governing body's original statement today revealed there was no evidence to suggest Arsenal had breached Premier League rules but the investigation was swiftly criticised by the BBC. FIFA had requested the FA probe the relationship between the clubs following allegations on BBC's Newsnight programme that the Gunners made irregular payments to the Belgian outfit.
The FA undertook a thorough inquiry, during which they received full co-operation from Arsenal and Beveren, and kept FIFA continually informed of their progress. But the BBC's Newsnight programme criticised the investigation, claiming the FA had not answered the relevant questions asked by FIFA.
A statement issued on behalf of Newsnight said: "After a three-week investigation the Football Association has established that Beveren is a Belgian football club and therefore does not compete against Arsenal in the Premiership or the FA Cup. This is not what Sepp Blatter asked for. "FIFA wrote to the FA on the June 4 after the Newsnight programme to say 'By means of this letter we kindly ask you to carry out an appropriate investigation into the relevant relationship between your affiliated club, Arsenal, and Beveren. "'We also ask you investigate the relationship with Asec Mimosas from the Ivory Coast. We ask you to carry out an investigation to ensure proper clarification of the issue'. "Instead the FA appears to have 'investigated' whether Arsenal owns or controls another English club. The FA has not investigated any of the allegations in the original Newsnight film which related to dealings between Arsenal, Beveren and the Ivory Coast."
But a spokesman for the FA responded: "Following the letter received from FIFA, we have conducted an inquiry in line with their request. "The FA has undertaken a thorough and appropriate inquiry and will continue to offer any assistance to FIFA that they may require." The Newsnight programme related how police uncovered an investment into Beveren of £1million from an anonymous donor, which they subsequently concluded had been provided by Arsenal. The Gunners responded by issuing a statement declaring their partnership with Beveren is on a football basis only, although they confirmed they paid a loan to stabilise the club in 2001.
Arsenal have an arrangement with Beveren to play friendly matches and loan players, with Ivory Coast defender Emmanuel Eboue arriving at Highbury on a permanent deal following a successful spell with the Belgian team. The Gunners, however, refute allegations of making irregular financial payments to Beveren. The FA's original statement added: "In order to protect the integrity of matches and competitions, these rules prohibit clubs in the same competition from being owned, influenced or controlled by the same person or entity. "In this case, the relevant competitions are the FA Cup and the FA Premier League. The rules also prevent a Premier League club from owning or controlling another Premier League or Football League club. "The FA has provided all the material obtained during its inquiry to FIFA for its consideration." There was no further comment from FIFA.
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