..First Italy, now English football faces its own
By Rob Beasley
ENGLISH football is bracing itself for its own corruption scandal after Premiership investigators confirmed they have evidence of illicit transfers involving several top-flight clubs.
The stark news will send shock waves through the domestic game less than 48 hours after Italy's match-fixing scandal saw leading Serie A sides Juventus, Fiorentina, Lazio and AC Milan severely punished.
Here, a team of specialist bung-busters — headed by former Met Police chief Lord Stevens — has highlighted a series of highly-questionable Premier League transfers.
Now they want the green light to go further and grill the clubs, players and agents involved in those "dodgy deals" in a bid to bring them to justice.
And the investigators will enjoy unprecedented powers in their search for the truth.
They will be able to demand home, office and mobile phone records, and personal bank accounts in an effort to find out who paid and who received the money which allegedly "went missing" in the deals.
That could then lead to a number of high-profile cases being brought against some of the game's biggest clubs and biggest names — a shameful episode to rival the match-fixing sensation in Italy.
Nothing will happen for a couple of months because Lord Stevens' team will not officially present their interim report to the Premier League until September.
But inside sources say the report will provide enough evidence to convince the Premier League there are serious causes for concern in several high-profile moves.
It will also stress the bung-busters are keen to zero in on the biggest cases in a bid to bring charges against anyone responsible for flouting the Premiership's strict rules on transfers by making illegal payments.
Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore sanctioned the on-going inquiry into all transfers made since January 2004.
Scudamore looks sure to agree, despite possible resistance and reluctance from club chairmen who may be concerned about the consequences for their teams.
An insider said: "What is the point of setting up an inquiry into allegations of illegal payments and illicit transfers if you don't follow the evidence and go all the way with it?
"Lord Stevens' team are sure to carry on this investigation, and a lot of people should be very uneasy about that."
A Premiership spokesman said: "We will receive Lord Stevens' initial report in September and examine it carefully.
"It was always going to be the case the inquiry would identify transfers they would like to look at in more detail."
Scudamore announced the inquiry into alleged transfer irregularities in March, shortly after News of the World published comments by then England boss Sven Goran Eriksson about corruption in the Premier League.
Eriksson claimed the Premiership had a "bungs" culture and he knew of three clubs where illegal payments were paid, including to a boss.