Sat, Sep 23, 2006 - Page 18 News List

UK soccer agents deny bung claims

LEGAL ACTION An agent at the center of accusations made in a BBC program proclaimed his innocence and said that he would be suing the TV network

AFP , LONDON

One of the agents at the center of the BBC's investigation into corruption in English soccer has denied ever making illegal payments or "bungs" during transfer deals.

And Peter Harrison says he plans to join Bolton manager Sam Allardyce in taking legal action against the BBC over the way he was portrayed in this week's Panorama program.

"I've never given bungs. I've not given a bung to Sam Allardyce. I shall be suing the BBC," Harrison told the Daily Express yesterday.

The Football Association is to investigate the claims which also target Allardyce's son, Craig.

Allardyce senior was accused by Harrison and another agent of taking bribes to allow transfers involving their clients to go through smoothly, while Craig, a former agent himself, was secretly filmed saying he could give access to his father in return for cash.

Harrison does not deny that he has made payments to Craig Allardyce, but insists that is not unusual as sometimes several agents can be involved in a deal.

"Yes, I have paid Craig. I've never denied it," Harrison said. "But Craig is a FIFA agent and in some deals there can be as many as four or five agents, so why shouldn't I pay Craig?"

He added: "I haven't heard from the FA. I shall be carrying on as an agent and I shall be doing whatever the FA want me to do," he said.

As for whether Craig Allardyce might then pass money on to his father, Harrison dismisses the suggestion as "preposterous."

He said: "I wouldn't know that. Why ask me? You would have to ask Craig and you'd have to ask Sam. But I know the answer. It is preposterous, just so ridiculous."

In a separate development yesterday another agent has reported that he was asked to pay a bung by a Premiership manager.

Jon Holmes, the chief executive of SFX, one of Europe's leading agencies, has said he has been asked for illegal payments by three managers during his 30 years in the business.

Holmes told the Sun: "In my career three managers, one of them currently operating in the Premiership, have intimated to me they would like a `kickback.'"

"One, for example, suggested that he would send a player my way but asked if he would `benefit' from doing so," Holmes said. "Was that asking for a bung? I thought so and walked away from the situation as I did from others."

The BBC journalist who carried out the expose for Panorama has said he may be ready to name a second Premiership manager as part of his investigation.

Journalist Alex Millar claims a manager agreed to collect a suitcase containing ?50,000 (US$90,000) -- with a second instalment to follow -- from a hotel but changed his mind.

Millar told the Daily Mail: "It was a big blow as we thought we were going to get it on film and people could see the type of thing that goes on. If you don't catch a manager then some people will say we haven't quite made it."

"We are currently discussing how we will provide information to the FA and what exactly we will give them. But we will be as helpful as we can be," he said.

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