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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 September 2006, 12:24 GMT 13:24 UK
Where football goes from here

By Kevin Gearey
BBC sports correspondent

Sports Minister Richard Caborn
Sports Minister Richard Caborn wants the BBC to pass on evidence
The Football Association is to investigate after allegations about illegal payments within football were made in a BBC Panorama undercover programme. So where does the game go from here?

That the BBC Panorama investigation into alleged corruption in football should have produced at least circumstantial evidence of skulduggery will not have come as a great surprise to anyone with at least a passing interest in the game.

Any industry with large amounts of money swilling around it will inevitably find itself open to sharp practice in some form and the opportunities that football offers, with players moving frequently not just from club to club but also from continent to continent for large amounts of money, makes it particularly vulnerable.

The complexities of some of the deals being struck these days, when some players, particularly those from South America, are "owned" not by their clubs but by business consortia, have only widened the potential scope for financial misdealing.

But while Panorama may not have found the smoking gun of definitive proof, it certainly engendered a reaction that there is no smoke without fire.

This in itself will have served a useful purpose if it spurs the football authorities to look deeper into the allegations and stiffen the resolve to find a more effective way of policing the way that the game does its business.

Suspicion

Part of football's problem in this area is that its powers to control the financial dealings of its increasingly powerful clubs are limited and at present, no one, strong body has overall responsibility.

In England, the Football Association oversees the probity of the game but its compliance unit, set up in the wake of a previous "bungs" scandal 13 years ago, has yet to bring any big names to book and the suspicion lingers that the will is not there within football for it to do so.

At the same time, following Luton Town manager Mike Newell's claims earlier this year that he had been offered bribes by an agent and a club chairman, the Premier League has set up its own inquiry under the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Lord Stevens.

Its brief has been to run an audit of some 362 transfers conducted by 26 clubs over a two-year period to see if there is any evidence of irregular payments having been made.

It is also expected to make recommendations on how transfer dealing can be better supervised in the future.

Football's image- hardly squeaky clean in the first place - has undoubtedly been further sullied

But there would be no obligation on its member clubs to adopt any new measures and there are rumours that some of the bigger ones are opposed to some of the options being mooted.

The sports minister, Richard Caborn, while calling on the BBC to hand over all its evidence to the Stevens Inquiry, goes further by suggesting that a pan-European body, probably operating under the umbrella of the game's European governing body, Uefa, should be set up to regulate the dealings of all clubs under its jurisdiction.

This would be a logical step forward, given the global nature of the game and the freedom of movement granted to individuals in the expanding European Union. Among its priorities should be the establishment of legislation preventing agents from representing both football clubs and players, sometimes even in the same deal!

The conflicts of interest involved when an agency has both a club or its manager on its books as well as, in some cases hundreds of players, are blindingly obvious.

Football's image - hardly squeaky clean in the first place - has undoubtedly been further sullied by the Panorama allegations.

What is important now is that it investigates them thoroughly and is seen to act decisively not only on any evidence of wrongdoing but on making the way it conducts its business more open and transparent.



SEE ALSO
Panorama: Who is accused of what?
20 Sep 06 |  Football
Football's original bung scandal
20 Sep 06 |  Football
'Bung' reaction
20 Sep 06 |  Football
Agents claim manager was bribed
19 Sep 06 |  UK News
In Pictures: Undercover football
19 Sep 06 |  In Pictures
Ex-police chief leads bungs probe
03 Mar 06 |  Premiership


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