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Barnsley suspend coach Tommy Wright after bung allegation

Published 28/09/2016

The Daily Telegraph claims to have found widespread evidence of corruption in the English game.
The Daily Telegraph claims to have found widespread evidence of corruption in the English game.

Barnsley have suspended assistant head coach Tommy Wright following allegations he took a £5,000 'bung' to help place players at his club.

QPR boss Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Leeds owner Massimo Cellino have also been shown in new video footage from the Daily Telegraph as part of its undercover investigation into corruption in football. Hasselbaink has denied any wrongdoing and Leeds have yet to comment regarding Cellino.

It follows revelations that led to the departure of England boss Sam Allardyce, and a separate report alleging that eight managers with Premier League experience and two from the Championship had taken so-called bungs in transfer deals.

Barnsley announced that Wright had been suspended "pending an internal investigation" after the Telegraph alleged he accepted the money during a series of meetings with a fake Far East firm, in which he agreed to help sign players part-owned by the firm.

QPR said they retained "every confidence" in Hasselbaink after a separate allegation from the newspaper that he requested a fee of £55,000 to work for a fake Far East firm seeking to sell players to the club.

There was no comment on Wednesday night from Leeds over the Telegraph's video footage, which appears to show Cellino explaining to representatives of a fictitious Far East firm that they can circumvent FA and FIFA rules by becoming club shareholders in order to receive a portion of players' sell-on fees.

FA and FIFA rules ban third-party ownership of players, and third parties receiving any percentage of a player's transfer fees.

The game's governing bodies will have dreaded the latest allegations, which came just hours after the FA, the Premier League and the EFL issued a joint statement vowing to investigate the original claims "with the full force of the rules at our disposal".

All three clubs involved in the allegations play in the Sky Bet Championship.

Barnsley acted swiftly to suspend Wright pending an internal investigation, after he was filmed telling reporters posing as members of a prospective Far East investment firm: "I can just recommend players to you...that I've gone and seen, and then you'll have to do your spicy dealing, whatever you do."

At a later meeting, when an envelope was offered that the Telegraph said contained bank notes, Wright said: "Cheers, just put it there", indicating a seat alongside him.

Hasselbaink launched a strong defence of his actions after video footage showed him asking his suitors to "come up with a nice figure" for a role, which the newspaper says he is told would involve a number of trips to meet with the firm in Singapore.

In the video, Hasselbaink says: "You said the word business. That's all, it's business, so it depends what you put down, you know... at the end of the day, it has to be worthwhile to go all that way."

Although QPR have not suspended Hasselbaink, they added the 44-year-old will be subjected to a "thorough internal investigation".

The club added: "We have every confidence in our manager and the robust systems and processes the club has in place."

Meanwhile Hasselbaink issued his own statement in which he denied any impropriety and said he saw nothing "unusual" in the prospective deal.

Hasselbaink said: "I do not see anything unusual in being offered to be paid to make a speech.

"I did not make any promises in return. I did not ask QPR to purchase any of the players who were said to be managed by Mr McGarvey (football agent Scott McGarvey) and Ms Newell (The Daily Telegraph's Claire Newell) and did not and would not recommend the purchase of a player for my personal gain.

"I deny any accusations of wrongdoing on my part."

Leeds declined to comment when contacted by Press Association Sport on Wednesday night with regard to comments made by Cellino.

The Italian appears to suggest to members of a fictitious Far East firm that they become shareholders in the club in order to receive portions of players' transfer fees.

Cellino says in the Telegraph video: "I tell you, I spend eight million this year...on new players. You want to finance that? You want to come 20 per cent in that? You got 20 per cent of the player - it's the only way.

"As a shareholder you can finance the club, asking everything you want - percentage - you are allowed to do it in England."

The League Managers Association said earlier on Wednesday that it was "extremely concerned" by the allegations involving the 10 Premier League and Championship managers.

A statement from the trade union for managers from the English Football League and Premier League said: "The LMA is extremely concerned by the current situation of allegations made against a number of managers.

"We take the allegations very seriously as they are obviously damaging to the game.

"We know the FA has requested full disclosure from the Telegraph of all the relevant information it has, and we are working with the FA in dealing with the allegations, following the correct processes and procedures."

The Telegraph has reported that it contacted all of the managers named by the agents and five of them responded with denials of taking bungs - the rest have not replied, the newspaper said.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch turned the focus onto the FA's competence as a regulator.

"The integrity of sport is absolutely paramount and we have been clear that we expect the highest standards of governance and transparency from sports governing bodies, here in the UK and on the international stage," said Crouch in a written statement.

"In this context, the recent allegations regarding English football are very concerning and we will be discussing the matter with the football authorities.

"All the evidence presented to them must be investigated fully and we stand ready to assist in any way we can."

In a statement issued shortly after midnight, Leeds described the allegations relating to Cellino as a "non-story".

The statement read: "The club has reviewed the supposed 'evidence' that the Daily Telegraph have published tonight.

"At no time in this video clip has Mr Cellino suggested getting around the FA's rules on third-party ownership of players.

"In complete contrast to what has been suggested, Mr Cellino has made a perfectly proper suggestion which is entirely consistent with the FA's regulations, as the only parties entitled to take benefit from ownership of a player is the club itself.

"If a company commits money to a club by way of investment, taking on the potential for profit but also the risk for loss, then that is a normal, every-day corporate process.

"This is plainly not a suggestion as to how to circumvent the rules, but rather, an accurate albeit concise explanation of how to operate within the confines of the rules and effectively become 'the club'.

"The club intends to make no further comment on this non-story."

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