Racing shows way ahead for soccer, claims expert

The Football Association and Premier League have been urged to take a leaf out of the UK Jockey Club’s book to tackle allegations of corruption and wrongdoing in the game.

The Football Association and Premier League have been urged to take a leaf out of the UK Jockey Club’s book to tackle allegations of corruption and wrongdoing in the game.

Jeremy Summers, partner and criminal specialist at law firm Russell Jones & Walker, believes football’s ruling bodies in the UK should look at the example set by horse racing after BBC’s Panorama exposed what it called “the corruption of racing” back in 2002.

The Jockey Club have since worked stringently to tackle the issue by bolstering their anti-corruption laws and bringing action against several high-profile names in the sport.

The FA and Premier League are currently conducting both joint and separate investigations into allegations of illegal payments and approaches for players involving prominent managers and agents within the English game, following the ‘Undercover: Football’s dirty secrets’ Panorama programme last week.

“There has been a concern that the footballing authorities haven’t really taken sufficient steps to counter this problem if indeed it is a problem,” Summers, an expert in fraud and regulatory investigations, told PA Sport’s Football Insider.

“Graham Bean, the former FA compliance officer, is on record as saying that the problem is the FA has not adequately resourced the investigation of any wrongdoing.

“If you look at the Jockey Club, which in years gone by has faced similar suggestions that it wasn’t doing enough to tackle corruption in the sport, it has brought in a bespoke team of anti-corruption experts.

“That has made a big difference in cleaning up the sport with a number of high-profile jockeys facing corruption charges.

“There is this suggestion that either the (football) authorities haven’t taken this seriously enough or specifically they haven’t devoted enough resources to work out whether this was a problem.”

Former Arsenal boss George Graham was the last person found guilty in the bungs scandal that hit English football back in 1995.

Despite continued speculation of ongoing corruption, it has been over a decade since Graham was brought to account and handed a year-long ban from football following an FA investigation.

Summers believes that is down to a lack of investigation rather than loopholes in the law.

He added: “I don’t think there is a loophole in the law as such, I just think that either no-one has investigated it with that aim in mind or, if they they have, no-one has sought to prosecute because the legislation (through the Prevention of Corruption Act) has been there since 1906.”

Summers also said that corruption in football could lead to criminal charges.

“Obviously the Premier League and FA are now investigating and they may decide that it will start and stop on a internal disciplinary basis,” he said.

“They will fine, suspend or dock points from clubs who may have been involved.

“If it goes criminal and the FA or Premiership feel there is enough evidence that needs to be referred to the Fraud Squad or the Metropolitan Police, then the case would take an altogether different tone.

“If someone is convicted of an offence of corruption it carries a maximum prison sentence of seven years or an unlimited fine.”

Notwithstanding the allegations made in the Panorama programme, Summers feels the publicity dredged up by the issue of bungs will have a positive impact on protecting the sport from corruption in the future.

He added: “There is a clear warning being given that the whole issue is very much in the spotlight and that people are looking much more closely at it.

“Even if there is nothing substantial to be found in relation to be Panorama allegations, I think anyone seeking to seek a bung-type deal in the future is going to be taking a great risk.”

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox