The long running BBC PANORAMA programme this week 'Undercover:Football's Dirty Secrets.', was a 'must see' for all involved in soccer, particularly after the build up in the media.
The programme was trying to prove, as most insiders and fans believed, that soccer in Britain, and in Europe was a dirty game, with too much taken out by agents who were allegedly giving massive hand-outs, sweeteners or 'bungs' to managers and others in the major clubs to help them get business.
The programme had an undercover agent counting £50,000 on a London hotel bed, waiting for a top London manager to show up in front of hiis hidden camera, in a shirt button. Well, he didn't and the rest of the programme really wasn't much better. Popular Bolton Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce, who had played in the old NASL and was being interviewed for the England job, was accused by agent Peter Harrison as one of those managers willing to take a bribe. Harrison talked on camera with the Panorama agent, who was a real German UEFA licensed one supposedly fronting a fictitious American billionaire, 'Mr. Big' who wanted to set up a super agency. He said that since Sam was wealthy, bribes could be paid to his son Craig, who had recently handed in his agents license to the FA. After the program Harrison retracted and said it was all lies, and Allardayce said his son was probably bragging.
Kevin Bond, assistant manager at Newcastle United, and formerly assistant with Harry Redknapp, was also impicated, and he said that he will sue the B.B.C. or t' The BEEb' as they are nicknamed.
Frank Arrensen the Dutch Youth Development manager at Tottenham Hotspur, was seen to offer an illegal £150,00 in three installments to induce a 15 year old Middlesborough player to join them, touted by agent Harrison, who did not have the permission of Middlesborough to do so.
Harry Redknapp, manager for the second time of Portsmouth, top of the Premiership, was filmed innocently saying that he like the Blackburn Rovers player, though he never said anything more damaging than that.
It had all started with an interview with upcoming manager Mike Newell of Luton Town, who claimed that he had been approached by a number of agents to accept bungs to facilitate transfers.
Many people talk about the legendary Derby County, Leeds United and Nottingham Forrest manager Brian Clough, a prodigious striker for Middlesborough and England, whose playing career was cut short by injury.who was supposed to expect 'bungs' for all transfers. even in paper sacks at motorway rest stops. He evidently had to settle with the tax authorities for over £600,000 at one stage.
The only big time manager ever punished was George Graham, who , while at Arsenal admitted accepting bungs of over £600,000 for the transfer of a danish player from Brondby FC John Jensen, from a notorious Norwegian Agent. and was suspended from the game for 12 months, later bouncing back to manage Leeds United and then Tottenham Hotspur.
Most of the English clubs say there is not a problem, but the Blackpool FC Chairman, Owen Oysten came out 3 days later to say that he and his club were offered bungs by agents and immediately refused, resulting in his failure to sign a number of players.
Lord Burns, a former London police commissioner will on October 2nd present his findings to the 20 Premier League clubs on how to improve the governance of the game, and Lord Stevens' Quest inquiry is looking into 362 suspect transfers of players between June 2004 and June 2006.
6 clubs have been recently accused of 'cooking their books.
Lord Brian Mawhinney Chairman of the Football League running the 72 other big full time clubs in the 3 leagues outside the Premier League has tightened regulations already. Agents can only represent either a club or a player in a particular transfer, and players must be responsible for paying any agents fees on their behalf, as is common in sports in the USA. Agents must have permission signed by a club or player to represent them and all these forms should be filed with the authorities. The Premier league supposedly will have such rules in place by the time of the next transfer window in January, 2007.
The Football League also requires their 2 lower league teams to spend no more than 60% of their income on players. Their top league, just below the Premier League is called The Championship, and with much bigger salaries and transfer fees they have not been brought into line yet on this percentage.
Chelsea with the Russian Billionaire Roman Abromovich in charge, is evidently over £250 million in debt yet has spent over £220 million on transfer fees since he bought the London club, winners of the last two Premier League titles.
Many people blame the Football Association at its headquarters in Soho Square London, for lack of governance, and for allowing the Premier league to be formed in the first place in 1991 with little control over the transfer market.
They do claim that they now have a 7 person strong compliance 'unit' , directed by Jonathan Hall. One ex police officer, a forensic accountant and a former inspector for the Inland Revenue-the tax people, while 2 others are barristers, or lawyers. In a few days agent Jonathan Barnett will be before the F.A. regarding the alleged illegal approach of Chelsea for England defender Ashley Cole, who actually finally joined Chelsea a couple of weeks ago. They are also investigating the agent of Wayne Rooney, Paul Stretford, who claims that they don't have any authority over his business practices.
Meanwhile, on the continent, UEFA the governing body is asking the European Union to step forward and help it with soccer's governance. although the powerful G14 group of super rich clubs, including Manchester United, Real Madrid, Bayern Munchen etc. are wary of any interference. In a 'Review of European Football', former Portuguese Sports Minister Jose Luis Arnaut gathered ministers of sport from 5 European countries in Brussels last week to lay plans for stiffer controls.
David Dein, a highly paid director of Arsenal F.C. and also owner of many shares in the club, was a prime mover to form the Premier League, and to sell the rights of league matches to Sky T.V. in stiff competition with the BBC and ITV, and recently paid over £ 2 BILLION for the rights. Dean says that soccer is ' A lawless society', but the 20 clubs keep the majority of the income for themselves, have increased ticket prices in the stadiums 7 + fold in just over a decade, and only give a small proportion, possibly 5% to help the F.A. and the other 45,000 clubs in England. When 3 clubs are relegated each season they are given a 'parachute' payment for a couple of seasons, but still find they are stuck with players on ridiculously high salaries, sometimes £100,000 a week, as they descend to the Championships and reduced gate and sponsor interest.
As usually happens in most businesses, the big clubs are probably not able to control things themselves, such is their suspicion of each other. It had taken a major Government report and enquiry to order strict controls and all seater stadiums and safety officers and inspections after terrible and unnecessary deaths at Bradford City in 1985 and at Brussels 18 days later. Four years later, in May,1989 at Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at the Leppings Lane End of the stadium at the start of an F.A. Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, a place that I had stood at the 1966 World Cup watching West Germany beat Switzerland 5-0 in 1966.
The next few weeks should see a number of people 'remembering' some bungs and hopefully money will stay in the game and not be frittered away unnecessarily