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Svennis accuses English clubs of "corruption"

Published: 22 Jan 2006 12:40 GMT+01:00
Updated: 22 Jan 2006 12:40 GMT+01:00

England coach Sven-Göran Eriksson has accused several unnamed English Premier League clubs of corruption, according to a report in Sunday's News of the World (NoW).

Eriksson allegedly branded what the paper said was a "struggling Premiership outfit" as being, in his words, the "worst at taking backhanders".

Meanwhile another club was labelled a "cesspit" by Eriksson, who accused it of "paying far too much for certain players because of illegal deals with agents".

Another team, described by the NoW as one of "England's most famous", was accused by Eriksson's agent, Athole Still, of having a manager who was involved in a transfer "scam".

However, the newspaper refused to name the three clubs allegedly involved for legal reasons.

Meanwhile Eriksson also said Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson should have left Old Trafford after the club's treble-winning season in 1999.

"After winning the treble he should have said 'thank you, goodbye'," the paper quoted the Swede as saying.

Football Association spokesman Adrian Bevington said: "There will be no comment tonight (Saturday) on any allegations that have been made. We will reflect on them and assess them again in the morning."

Eriksson's comments follow claims by Luton manager Mike Newell of a 'bung culture' of improper transfer payments within the English games.

The England coach's remarks were the latest set of comments to be drawn from the News of the World's 'sting' operation that led Eriksson to announce Friday he was taking legal action against the British Sunday tabloid.

The 57-year-old was left deeply embarrassed after a reporter, posing as a wealthy Arab sheikh, extracted an admission, published in last Sunday's edition, that he would be interested in quitting England to take over as manager of Aston Villa after the World Cup, which starts in June in Germany.

He was also reported to have described Rio Ferdinand as "lazy," and claimed Michael Owen was only at Newcastle for the money, as well as boasting of his close relationship with England captain David Beckham.

Eriksson has not contested the paper's account of his remarks but claims that they were distorted by being taken out of context.

In the legal action, lawyers for Eriksson and Still will attempt to convince England's High Court that the newspaper had been guilty of an illegal "breach of confidence."

However, a spokeswoman for the paper said Friday it stood by the story 100 percent and promised "further revelations" which have now been published.

Following last week's revelations the FA, while privately concerned by Eriksson's conduct, made it clear his position was not under threat.

But Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein, a member of the FA's international committee, told this Sunday's NoW: "Was he (Eriksson) indiscreet? Was he naive? I think he would probably admit he was both."

Eriksson was similarly embarrassed in 2004 when it was revealed he had held talks with Chelsea about the managerial vacancy eventually filled by Jose Mourinho.

The Swede is under contract with England until 2008 on a reported four million pounds a year salary.

He admitted on Friday however that he expects to be sacked in the summer if England do not reach the semi-finals in Germany and that he would step down should England win the World Cup.

Operations such as this one which snared the coach are common enough for Eriksson to have been ridiculed for failing to spot the "fake sheikh," the alter ego of NoW star reporter Mazher Mahmood.

Mahmood famously used the disguise to expose Queen Elizabeth II's daughter-in-law, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, for exploiting her royal connections to the benefit of the PR firm she worked for.

AFP

Paul Rapacioli (paul.rapacioli@thelocal.com)

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