Eight current and former Premier League managers stand accused of receiving “bungs” for player transfers after The Daily Telegraph found widespread evidence of corruption in the English game.
As Sam Allardyce lost his job as England manager following the Telegraph’s disclosures about his conduct, the Football Association faced a separate crisis over the alleged bribery of managers.
Football agents were filmed by undercover reporters boasting about how many managers they had paid, with one agent saying that in football, “everything is under the table”.
Later this week the Telegraph will also disclose the name of an assistant manager at a leading club who was filmed accepting a £5,000 cash payment from undercover reporters posing as representatives of a Far Eastern firm that wanted to invest in players.
It leaves the FA facing its biggest crisis in recent years, as it deals with evidence that attempts to clean up the game have failed, while it also has to begin the search for a new manager of the England team.
Allardyce became the shortest-reigning permanent England manager in history on Tuesday night when he lost his job over the Telegraph’s disclosures that he had given advice on how to get around FA rules on player transfers while negotiating a £400,000 deal with a fictitious Far Eastern firm. His insistence that he would have to clear the deal with the FA was not enough to save him.
During a series of meetings with agents, managers and club officials over the summer, undercover reporters built up a dossier of secret recordings and other evidence that suggests corruption remains a major problem in the English game.
The Telegraph has agreed to give all relevant transcripts to the Football Association and has also passed information to the police. As well as the eight current and recent Premier League managers named by agents, two bosses of Championship clubs were said to have been open to so-called “bungs” – illicit payments.
Pino Pagliara, an unlicenced Italian agent who was banned from football for five years for match-fixing in 2005, spoke openly about his reliance on the “greed” of managers.
At San Carlo, the Italian restaurant that doubles as the football world’s meeting room, the names of “bent” football managers tripped off his tongue as easily as the prosecco bubbles popped in his wine glass.
The football agent lowered his voice as he named a well-known manager who, he said, asks if there will be “a little coffee” for him if a transfer deal goes through – code for a backhander.
Warming to the subject, he described another famous manager as “very bent”, who would ask for kickbacks to be deposited in an offshore account when transfers were agreed.
Over the following hours, and during other meetings with undercover Telegraph reporters, Mr Pagliara and two other agents named a total of eight current or recent Premier League managers who they said were known for taking “bungs”, including five they said they had personally paid off.
They also named two Championship managers who, they said, had accepted bribes. They were unaware that their conversations were being recorded as part of a Telegraph investigation into corruption in football, thinking instead they were talking to representatives of a Far Eastern firm looking to invest in soccer.
With their guard dropped, the agents provided a troubling insight into a footballing nation where, according to one of them, “everything is under the table” and corruption is widespread.
By the time Mr Pagliara sat down to his lunch of king prawns followed by risotto at San Carlo in Manchester, where virtually every player, manager and agent in the north west has dined at some point, he had already held several meetings with representatives of the fictitious Far East firm, and was keen to use their supposed financial clout to further his own career in the sometimes murky world of player transfers.
He explained to the woman sitting next to him that: “There’s one thing I’ve always been able to rely on, and that is the greed of general managers.”
Asked if he meant he paid people in England, he replied, “Here it’s even worse… I thought the Italians were corrupt.” Giving examples, he said of one manager: “We know him very, very well. We do a transfer to [named club], [X] has winked at us and said yeah, I want the player. Is there a little coffee for me, Pino? Yeah, that’s what he will say. “Yeah, course there is. I’ll negotiate that coffee as well.”
He added that the manager “will probably tell me, ‘OK I’ve got this guy who I work with a lot, he can put an invoice for consultancy, right, and he will do that. Nobody is stupid these days, they understand the importance of covering their tracks.”
“We will not make any payments directly to him. There’ll be a consultancy agreement with somebody who he trusts enough to let them do that and then he gets it back, that’s how it works.”
He said he could ruin the reputation of one former manager with what he knew about him, “because he’s very bent… I’ve got bank accounts of his, I’ve paid money to him, yeah course I did”.
He said the manager would call him and say “here’s the number”, and would then give him the details of a numbered account at a bank in Switzerland. “It was always numbered accounts,” he said. “I have opened so many Swiss bank accounts for managers that you wouldn’t believe.”
The same individual, who used to manage a high profile team, had also fixed a game, Mr Pagliara claimed. The manager’s representatives yesterday described the allegations as “completely false”. In several instances, he admitted that he had personally paid the officials “bungs” to secure deals.
During another meeting with undercover reporters, Mr Pagliara alleged that another manager made his own players give him kickbacks in return for increasing their wages.
He said: “There was three players, and every month they would come into his office with £4,000 cash each of them, so he was getting £12,000. What happened was when they had done the deal he said ‘they’ve done the wages and you’re going to get ten grand a week, so I’m going to give you 12 grand a week and you’re going to give me four grand a month – so obviously they were getting four grand a month extra and he was getting four grand.”
The manager in question last night described the allegation as “pure fantasy”. As a general rule of thumb, the Italian agent, who was banned from football for five years in 2005 for match-fixing, said it was easier to bribe managers in the Championship because they earned less.
However, he said there were one or two in the Premier League that still took money. He named one manager who “likes money” to secure deals, adding that he “takes a few” because “he’s not being paid big money”.
The manager last night denied he had ever “taken money to facilitate football transfers”. At the meeting with the Far Eastern “businessmen”, Mr Pagliara said with a shrug: “Listen, in football everything is underneath the table… I mastered that.”
Such was his reputation, he said, that people knew “if you went into a deal with me you came out with pounds and francs”.
During his meetings with the undercover reporters, Mr Pagliara moaned about a “reformed rogue” of a manager who “used to need the money but he’s had so much now that all of a sudden he’s whiter than white”. He said: “I felt like saying ‘[X], you’ve had more backhanders than Wimbledon, what are you talking about?’ “You know he’s a wheeler and dealer don’t you?… he gambles 20 grand a day, he needs to make money… he’ll be earning three or four million, he still wants 50 grand in cash.”
The manager last night denied taking bungs. Another coach who has managed several British clubs was allegedly sacked by one club after being “caught with his fingers in the till”.
Known for liking a “bung”, according to Mr Pagliara, he said the former manager would get involved with the fake Far Eastern firm “providing that you understand that when we do deals I have to have a carrier bag with some cash”.
The club that sacked the manager last night said he had been dismissed because of poor results on the pitch. Yet another boss was identified as “another manager that we can put on the payroll”. Mr Pagliara said that if a player was transferred for £10 million, “we’ll turn round to [X] and say, listen, if you take this player we’ll look after you. OK? OK, boom. How much? Seven million, boom. Here’s five hundred, here’s three hundred, here’s a million.” Undercover reporters also met Mr Pagliara’s business partner Dax Price, who talked openly about the “crooked deals” he had done and the need to pay some managers to secure deals.
He said: “It’s almost like corruption is just staring you in the face, everyone’s… that is the business.” He added that not every manager needed to be paid, before naming one that was “straight”. One manager, Mr Price said, had complained to him that “people are getting back-handers left, right and centre”.
For Mr Price the rewards were clear: Premier League TV rights meant big money for clubs, which would translate to high transfer fees for players and more commission for agents. “These new TV rights – £7.2 billion… the money’s going to be ridiculous… there’s no league in the world like the English league,” he said.
Mr Pagliara and Mr Price were not the only agents who claimed that money needed to be paid to secure deals. Scott McGarvey, a former Manchester United player turned agent, also met undercover reporters, and rattled off the names of four managers who were willing to take “bungs”.
Many of the names were the same as the ones mentioned by Mr Pagliara and Mr Price. He admitted to personally paying two managers. In one instance he paid a manager – who is still working in the game –£5,000 in “readies” for a player transfer.
The manager said “—-ing great, Scotty” when he was given the money. Mr McGarvey said the manager was so pleased with the cash that “it was as though I’d given him a million pounds”.
Mr Pagliara, who had dealt with the same manager, said the football boss liked to have backhanders deposited in a Swiss bank account. He said: “I can call [X] now and all it is with [X] is ‘How much, Pino? And will it be the same Swiss bank account?’”
The two men agreed that an associate of the manager would send an invoice in future to cover any other payments, and Mr McGarvey said he had sent the associate £30,000 from a Monaco bank account in relation to the transfer of another player.
He warned undercover reporters that there were “ramifications of getting caught doing that”. Speaking about a particular manager, Mr Pagliara said he could be relied on to keep quiet, adding: “I would never change pound notes with people that I don’t know.” Asked if he had “done it with him before”, he said: “I’ve done it with everyone before.”
Mr Pagliara said last night: “I have never paid bungs to anyone. I have never paid any money to any of these managers.” He added that he had “fabricated” the stories based on “hearsay” to impress the undercover reporters in the hope of securing a lucrative contract with the fictitious firm.
Mr Price said he could not respond to the Telegraph’s investigation without being provided with more detail, and a spokesman for Mr McGarvey said he denied any wrongdoing and “there is little doubt that the lure of the project and his role in it has resulted in our client providing colourful information to enhance and secure his role as was being offered to him”.