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Rediff.com  » Sports » BBC uncovers football's ugly secrets

BBC uncovers football's ugly secrets

September 20, 2006 10:45 IST

A BBC television investigation into alleged illegal payments in English football pointed the finger on Tuesday at Bolton Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce and two agents, one of them his son Craig.

The Panorama programme, entitled Undercover - Football's Dirty Secrets, also made allegations regarding indirect approaches to players involving Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp and Chelsea's director of youth football, Frank Arnesen.

Redknapp's former assistant at Portsmouth, Kevin Bond, was secretly recorded saying he would consider discussing payments by a proposed new agency involving agent Peter Harrison.

All of those named in the programme have denied any wrongdoing.

The allegations come before a Premier League inquiry into illegal payments to managers by agents as part of transfers -- known as "bungs" -- delivers its findings on Oct. 2.

In a statement after the programme, the Premier League said it took "all allegations of this nature seriously, which is why we launched an inquiry into alleged irregular payments in transfers back in January of this year."

It added: "...we request the BBC pass on their evidence in order that The FA and ourselves can examine all aspects of these allegations in order to determine the most appropriate course of action that each body should take."

In undercover filming, agents accused Sam Allardyce, considered earlier this year as a potential England manager, of being corrupt.

One of them, France-based Teni Yerima, said Allardyce had taken money from him, while another, Harrison, said money was offered to his son Craig as part of a deal.

Denying the allegations, the Bolton manager has subsequently told the BBC that he has never asked for or received a 'bung', the corporation said in a statement.

Speaking after Bolton's League Cup win over Walsall, played while the Panorama programme was broadcast, Allardyce told BBC Radio: "I'm doing my job and tonight is very difficult in that time in itself.

"I'm aware of the situation and because I haven't seen anything of the programme, I need to have a look at that before I make any comment whatsoever.

"But if there are things saying wrong about Sam Allardyce, believe you me, I will be fighting them."

Yerima has told the BBC that he made everything up in order to find out who the undercover reporter, Knut auf dem Berge, was working for.

Allardyce's son Craig was accused by the programme makers of receiving secret payments for the transfer to Bolton of three players - Israeli defender Tal Ben Haim, Japan playmaker Hidetoshi Nakata and Omani goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi. Craig also told a BBC reporter that his father knew about these payments.

Craig Allardyce has denied any wrongdoing in his Bolton deals or in his relationship with the club, the BBC said. His father has said he would not condone any breaches of Football Association rules -- whatever his personal feelings for Craig.

ALLEGATIONS DENIED

Redknapp was filmed having a conversation with Harrison about Blackburn Rovers defender Andy Todd at Portsmouth's training ground. Redknapp said: "I would take him without a doubt. I like him."

Redknapp has denied the conversation amounted to 'tapping up', the BBC said.

Chelsea's Arnesen was secretly filmed having a meeting with Harrison about one of his clients, teenage Middlesbrough player Nathan Porritt. Arnesen said he could offer Porritt 150,000 pounds ($282,100) if he was to leave Middlesbrough.

Harrison also approached a Liverpool official about the player, even though the agent is filmed saying that Boro did not know he was offering Porritt to other clubs.

Chelsea and Liverpool have denied the meetings filmed by the BBC broke any industry rules.

Harrison has denied any wrongdoing and said his payments to Craig Allardyce were legitimate.

Allegations that illegal payments are often made to facilitate transfers have been around the game for decades and the Premier League held an inquiry into the issue in 1993.

Former Arsenal manager George Graham was banned from the game for a year in 1995 after accepting 425,000 pounds from the Norwegian agent Rune Hauge in connection with the transfers of John Jensen and Pal Lydersen. He remains the only high-profile casualty in the English game.

Interviewed on-camera by Panorama, a former agent Steven Noel-Hill said: "The game is corrupt... Bungs were the lubricant of the deals, so in my case 8 out of 10 that means that I would say, if that goes across the industry as a whole, 80 percent of all deals have bungs attached to them."

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