Kate Hoey MP: I Tried To Clean Up Football 20 Years Ago

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By Kate Hoey | 4:20 am, September 30, 2016

For most people who love football, earning £3 million as  the England football manager would be a dream come true. Indeed Sam Allardyce, on his appointment, said that it was what he had wanted all his life.

Well he had 67 days to savour the job before his apparent greed and willingness to “bend the rules” led to his dismissal by the Football Association.

Investigative reporting into football is not new. Twenty-two years ago journalists Mihir Bose and Jeff Randall broke the first “bungs” story on the front page of the Sunday Times. This named Brian Clough and although an inquiry showed it to be accurate, the FA did nothing, thus setting the standard on not taking responsibility that continues to this day.

Despite some tinkering at the edges and setting up a fairly powerless integrity unit which doesn’t conduct investigations, the governing body of our national sport has never introduced any real transparency or accountability into the game.

So the full price of player transfers is not disclosed. Nor are we told who gets what out of each transfer. We aren’t told how much the player has been paid either. Not only would transparency like this start to change the system but the sums involved would be likely to shock the public. It is still too easy to become an agent, something which agents themselves think is wrong.

The real problem is that no-one with authority really ever wants to interfere with football. It was ever so.

Back in 1995 in the outcry that followed the ‘bung scandals’ and the investigations into  Terry Venables  and agents, I introduced a Bill in Parliament which would have established a compliance unit for professional football  with power to create and maintain proper financial controls and to report irregularities.  I called for an independent inquiry into the state of our national game and the conflicts of interest that lay within it.

Of course my Bill never got past its first Reading. There were too many interlocking interests in football that conspired to keep the truth away from the public.

Not a lot has changed since then though at least, under the last Chairman Greg Dyke, the FA did start to tackle some of the malaise that seeped through the organisation.

Roy Hodgson, the previous manager, reduced the overwhelmingly arrogance surrounding the England team – so different from what surrounds the Welsh and Northern Ireland squads.

The newly-appointed chairman Greg Clarke has a great opportunity following the Allardyce debacle to  seize the initiative, be proactive and ask for Government help.

The French Government has a state regulator for football and doesn’t shy away from interference when necessary. Mr Clarke could start by reducing the £3 million salary for the next manager. I want a manager who wants to do the job for his country with money being the least important factor.

Football has to be clean to continue to get the huge support – financial and moral – it enjoys. The good, hard-working people in the game, of whom there are many, deserve more. The public interest in this matter must be recognised. Corruption in football takes money away from clubs, which means that fans are being cheated and asked to pay more for their tickets.

Maybe 20 years on, my Football Compliance Bill might still see the light of day!

  • Kate Hoey is MP for Vauxhall. She was Minister for Sport from 1999 to 2001.