Sunday, September 24, 2006

Lord Stevens report not looking good...

Lord Stevens report into 'bungs in football' is the subject of press speculation this morning. The News of The World are claiming that the former police commissioner has been 'shocked' at the level of complexity involved in many football deals.

Apparently, Lord Stevens has looked into 350 deals and has recommended that 80 transfer deals should be looked at in greater detail, with the aid of financial accountants, who it's hoped will be able to help unravel the money trail. Manchester United and Bolton are being linked to the 80 deals that will come under further scrutiny, if indeed Stevens gets the co-operation he's seeking.

Furthermore, Stevens is offering to personally visit the headquarters of FIFA in Zurich to request further help and assistance.

From the outside looking in, you do wonder exactly what Lord Stevens has found, because if he's 'shocked', then we are left to assume he's found some evidence of wrong doing. Or, is it the case that he's shocked at the level of secrecy? You also wonder what help FIFA can be on this issue.

Stevens has been working on this inquiry since last March, granted he's looked at 350 transfer deals, which must accountant for the bulk of his time. However, the omens for his findings don't look good this morning.

Firstly, we have a leak to a national Sunday newspaper in which the names of Manchester United and Bolton have been smeared. Both clubs are of course easy targets. There's been plenty of speculation surrounding Sir Alex Ferguson and his son, who was a football agent and has been involved in several United deal's over the last few year's. Bolton's name has been dragged through the mud this last week, following the Panorama expose, so it's easy to point the finger of guilt at 'The Trotter's'.

The leaked story to the press smacks a bit of desperation. Could it be that someone has decided to leak this story in a bid to gain maximum publicity ahead of any official statement about the Stevens report? Could it also be the case that in point of fact Stevens hasn't uncovered any significant new evidence of wrong-doing, and in a bid to make it look like something is 'going on' easy targets have been named to make it look like something is 'going on'?

The fact that Stevens is offering to personally visit FIFA in Zurich doesn't impress me at all, it sounds like a bit of a jolly actually. This adds no weight to the story. Shouldn't Stevens have contacted FIFA et al already if this was an avenue that might lead somewhere? I personally cannot see FIFA being of much use on this issue and again it smacks of somebody trying to add weight to the findings of the investigation.

Panorama did at least find some real evidence of corruption within the game with three different agents implicating several clubs. It remains to be seen what the FA and Premier League will do about that evidence. Those with the games' interest at heart will welcome anything that leads to any rotten apples being exposed.

What football doesn't need now is smear campaigns without hard evidence.

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