Evidence needed to bring bungs to justice

With last week's sensational BBC Panorama programme threatening to lift the lid on football's “bung culture”, it seemed everyone within football was waiting with baited breath for the 'smoking gun' that the BBC undercover reporters would produce for the cameras.

With last week's sensational BBC Panorama programme threatening to lift the lid on football's “bung culture”, it seemed everyone within football was waiting with baited breath for the 'smoking gun' that the BBC undercover reporters would produce for the cameras.

But amongst all the hype, rumour and allegations, how much hard evidence was shown? No one was actually shown accepting any bribes. But the public perception from the programme clearly seems to be that football is corrupt and that supporters' season ticket money is being frittered away in bungs to managers.

If allegations of bung taking are proved, then criminal charges could well follow. The Prevention of Corruption Act makes it an offence to offer or to receive a bribe. And the prospect of a football manager being sent to prison would surely eclipse even the furore surrounding the Italian football scandal earlier this year that saw Juventus being relegated from Serie A, the Italian premier league.

Illegal payments to players though, are nothing new. The history of Association Football has been littered with examples of managers or clubs bending or breaking the rules. In 1993, during a libel case, Amstrad and Spurs chairman Alan Sugar, claimed he had been told that the proposed transfer of Teddy Sheringham to Nottingham Forest would go through more smoothly if cash exchanged hands. Brian Clough, the court was told, "likes a bung". And the George Graham scandal of 1994, which saw Graham receiving a bung from agent Rune Hauge in the transfer of Danish international John Jensen to Arsenal, subsequently rocked the football industry.

But over a century earlier, in the 1880s, illegal payments to players were arousing similarly huge debate. Prior to the FA legalising professionalism on in 1885, many clubs made payments to "professional" players to increase the competitiveness of their teams. And Leeds United only came into being after Leeds City Football Club was suspended and eventually expelled from the Football League after a high-profile scandal involving illegal payments allegedly made to players during the war years.

Indeed, closer to home, in 1904 Norwich City was the subject of an FA Disciplinary Commission which, on 31 December 1904, found City guilty of the charge of being a 'professional organisation' - a very serious matter in those days, but one that lead to the Norwich City Football Club Limited (now PLC) being formed.

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And with the findings of Lord Stevens into Premier League deals due next Monday, we are unlikely to have heard the end of bungs to managers. What is important is that any evidence is brought out into the open and that instead of rumours of corruption, bribes and bungs, we see hard evidence.

It is vital that supporters can be certain that managers, directors and club officials are not lining their pockets through dodgy transfer deals. If any doubt remains that they might illegally benefit personally from the transfer of a player - that, surely, can only harm the game that we all love.

On The Ball, City!