Posted by Dom
One topic has been dominating the banter around the nation’s watercoolers today: corruption in football. Tuesday night’s BBC Panorama programme ‘Undercover: Football’s Dirty Secrets’ well and truly put football in the dock – and the heavy pre-transmission publicity ensured that over 5 million of you sat engrossed as the documentary put its case.
So what exactly was being alleged? Well, everything comes back to the culture of so-called ‘bungs’ in football. A bung is an illicit fee paid to a football player, manager or agent to facilitate a player transfer; soccer agents were filmed secretly in the documentary describing how the practice was rife in our national game, and went as far as to name some of the leading figures alleged to be guilty of wrongdoing.
One of the most famous names mentioned in connection with allegedly taking bungs was Bolton’s manager Sam Allardyce, who only a couple of months ago was being touted as a leading contender for the then-vacant England manager’s job. Newcastle assistant boss Kevin Bond was accused of admitting he would consider discussing receiving payments from agents, whilst Portsmouth supremo Harry Redknapp was alleged to have ‘tapped up’ a player (approaching a contracted footballer without permission from their employers).
Unsurprisingly, all the figures named by the programme have issued denials; Wednesday’s developments, meanwhile, have included Sports Minister Richard Caborn calling for a thorough investigation into illegal payments in our game, the Premier League asking for the BBC to hand over its evidence for its on-going Stevens inquiry into football corruption, and Allardyce himself once more coming out to strongly refute all the allegations, asking his lawyers at the same time to take ‘appropriate’ steps.
The whole issue leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, for sure – not least for the fact there are so many rumours, whispers, half-truths and unproven allegations that it’s pretty much impossible, certainly for the layman not intimately involved with all the minute details of the game, to work out what’s true and what’s gossip-ridden nonsense. There certainly seems to be a huge issue to address here – but has football got the guts to look itself straight in the eye and ask some uncomfortable, ugly questions?
So where do you stand on the issue? Is it all a media-fabricated storm in a teacup, or should the programme be a prelude to a purge of football’s wrong-doers that will leave the game fundamentally changed for ever? Has the bung culture in football been, in fact, around for decades?
As ever, let us know your thoughts and opinions, and we’ll feature the best of your comments in a subsequent blog.