Stevens declares clubs are bung-free

PREMIER LEAGUE clubs have been declared bung-free – at least for the time being.

Lord Stevens yesterday announced the findings of his Quest team’s nine-month inquiry into alleged illegal payments by revealing that 17 transfers – out of 362 – still require further investigation because eight football agents have failed to co-operate.

Instead, of naming names, the former Metropolitan Police commissioner made some searing criticisms of the FA and the accounting procedures of some unnamed clubs, and produced some 39 observation and recommendations.

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore said investigations into all top-flight clubs were now over and they were “effectively in the clear” — unless the continuing probe into the remaining 17 transfers comes up with any new evidence.

The FA reacted with some anger to the criticism against them, and chief executive Brian Barwick claimed all but one of Stevens’ recommendations are being introduced in May anyway, and that there was “little detail concerning irregular transfer activities” in the inquiry’s findings.

The Quest inquiry may not have uncovered any bungs but they have shown that at least three clubs have failed to maintain proper accounts of their transfer payments.

Stevens was scathing, saying: “We will be providing the Premier League with a number of incidences where mandated processes have not been followed.

“The frequency of these instances show the clubs neither anticipate nor are concerned by the strictures imposed by the FA.

“It is my view this further erodes the reputation of the game and those involved in it. Such scant disregard for the rules and regulations of this great game is unacceptable.”

Scudamore said as no evidence on bungs had so far been unearthed, that: “You have to deduce from that that the game is clean.”

The only disciplinary action possible in the near future is against three unnamed clubs who breached transfer rules because they did not know the correct regulations. A further 16 Premier League clubs, also unnamed, failed to document financial arrangements connected to their transfers appropriately on at least one occasion.

Scudamore added: “The concentration is now on a number of agents and other parties – not clubs and club officials. In one sense the clubs are in the clear in that the investigation into them has finished.

“The Premier League board and the FA will decide if there are breaches of regulations. It would be inappropriate at this stage to name people who may or may not have breached the rules.”

The Premier League and the FA are now expected to launch a joint review to put pressure on the eight agents to co-operate fully with the Quest investigators, who have been given unlimited time to complete their probe into the remaining 17 transfers. FIFA will also be approached to help.

As expected, the FA’s compliance unit bore much of Stevens’ criticism. The Stevens report said: “The FA failed to monitor in any detailed or systematic way the arrangements connected to transfers occurring during the inquiry period.

“The FA’s clearing-house system failed to review the information on unusual payments or transfers as thoroughly as it should have done.”

But Barwick insisted the FA “had full confidence” in their compliance department and had already committed to boosting the unit’s staff numbers and resources.

The part of the Stevens’ inquiry that does raise eyebrows is the way in which players are often wholly ignorant of how much the their agents are paid for their services.”

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