Stevens turns spotlight on agents

Lord Stevens’ long-awaited report into alleged illegal payments clears all Premier League clubs of paying or receiving bungs - but the report raises separate concerns about two managers and a number of agents.

Lord Stevens’ long-awaited report into alleged illegal payments clears all Premier League clubs of paying or receiving bungs - but the report raises separate concerns about two managers and a number of agents.

The former Metropolitan Police commissioner expresses concerns over “a conflict of interest” involving Sam Allardyce and his former agent son Craig while at Bolton.

He also points to “inconsistencies in evidence” provided by former Newcastle manager Graeme Souness.

Deals involving Chelsea, Newcastle, Bolton, Middlesbrough and Portsmouth have all been highlighted by the former Metropolitan Police commissioner in his final report to the Premier League.

The main focus of the report targets agents though the clubs are set to face a further investigation from the Football Association.

Stevens has also expressed concerned about 15 agents and third parties involved in some 17 transfers.

Stevens says in the report: “The inquiry remains concerned at the conflict of interest that it believes existed between Craig Allardyce, his father Sam Allardyce (the then manager at Bolton Wanderers) and the club itself.”

He goes on: “There remain inconsistencies in evidence provided by Graeme Souness (a former manager of the club) and [Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd’s son] Kenneth Shepherd as to their respective roles in transfer negotiations.”

Craig Allardyce has promised to provide “further documentation” to aid Stevens’ inquiry after today's report.

A statement released on behalf of Allardyce said: “Craig is pleased that Lord Stevens confirmed that there is no evidence or suggestion of any irregular payments to Bolton Wanderers FC or those involved with the club.

“As stated in the findings, Craig has always co-operated with the Inquiry. He is currently awaiting and will shortly provide to Quest any further documentation in order to help clarify outstanding issues in relation to the transfers which are ’uncleared’.”

Souness was baffled to be named. He said in a statement issued by his solicitors: “I cannot understand why my name features in this report. I volunteered full information to Quest as a witness and I have heard nothing further from them.”

Of the 17 transfers named by Stevens, all remain under investigation because of unsatisfactory responses from agents – including super-agent Pini Zahavi.

Four relate to Newcastle signings (Emre Belozoglu, Jean-Alain Boumsong, Amdy Faye, Albert Luque), four to Bolton (Ali Al-Habsi, Tal Ben Haim, Blessing Kaku, Julio Correia), three to Chelsea (Didier Drogba, Petr Cech, Michael Essien), three to Portsmouth (Collins Mbesuma, Benjani Mwaruwari, Alliou Cisse), two to Middlesbrough (Aiyegbeni Yakubu and Fabio Rochemback), and one remains undisclosed.

Zahavi’s lawyer Ehud Shochatovitch said: “My client believes he has been targeted because he is successful and enjoys a high profile in the football world.

“Quest wanted Mr Zahavi to furnish their investigators with access to bank accounts of Mr Zahavi and his companies, that have nothing to do with football transactions and with English football in particular.

“In light of the above, there is no doubt that Quest’s findings are unfounded and arbitrary and that Quest mis-used its powers.”

The Premier League will now send the findings to the FA and FIFA who will decide whether to take disciplinary action.

An FA spokesman said: “Following the final report of the Premier League’s Quest Inquiry, the FA will give full consideration to its contents and the documentation that is due to be passed on by the Premier League and Quest.

“The FA has provided full co-operation and support to the Premier League and Quest and will now go through their information as part of our governance and regulation process. This will determine what action is required.”

The Premier League and the FA also admitted to Stevens some responsibility for failing to check transfers sufficiently.

The league say in their report to clubs: “Both the Premier League and the FA have already accepted partial responsibility for not having effective checking and verification systems at the front end of the transfer process.

“However, this does not excuse the prevalence of slack administration and lack of understanding of complex rules by some clubs that have led to an unacceptable level of compliance.”

The League and the FA have agreed to carry out random spot-checks on future transfers using Quest investigators.

The League added: “With regards to the future, the Premier League and the FA have agreed to carry out a random audit of selected transfers from each window in order to further ensure compliance.

“The Premier League will be asking Quest to assist them in this and it may transpire that this becomes a joint initiative subject to agreement with the FA.”

Stevens said further inquiries should be carried out into agent Willie McKay registering a race horse in the name of Harry Redknapp, a keen follower of horse-racing and owner of several thoroughbreds.

Redknapp said: “This was purely a PR exercise. Trainer Dandy Nicholls wanted people from the world of football involved to gain publicity for his yard but I have never even seen the horse run and have never gained a penny out of it or contributed to any training fees.

“I understand the horse wasn’t very good and never won a race.”

Sports minister Richard Caborn said he was pleased that all the clubs had co-operated with the inquiry.

He said: “I welcome the transparent approach taken by the Premier League in publishing these findings today. While it’s pleasing to hear that all clubs and officials have co-operated fully with the Steven’s inquiry, I am deeply concerned that some agents haven’t. They should do so immediately.

“It’s now for the FA and FIFA to pursue these agents vigorously and they will have my support every step of the way.

“The role of agents in football will always be controversial and that’s why they need proper regulation at national, European and international level.”

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