Opinion: Action not hyperbole will rescue football

Tuesday's much-hyped edition of Panorama, looking into allegations of a 'bung culture' in football, was a disappointment for many in the media sphere.

The widely reported claim that it would ‘blow football apart' felt like publicity hyperbole when it emerged that the journalists lacked concrete evidence of managers taking kickbacks.

Of course, the programme may yet lead to more productive investigations, but the BBC's credibility for hard journalism - which rests on such prime-time documentaries - failed to get a major lift.

However, once again it was football's credibility that took the biggest hit. Bolton manager Sam Allardyce does not emerge from the show smelling of roses. But Panorama was particularly harsh on the Football Association, accusing it of employing a single executive to investigate corruption in the game - whereas it actually has a team of more than a dozen compliance officers - and of failing to address the underlying problems, with lacklustre paper-pushing.

That said, the FA needs to assert its vigour in cleaning up the game. We live in a time when leading clubs are starting to appear as money-laundering operations for questionable businessmen and politicians - and shady agents are becoming multi-millionaires. And we only need to look at the sad state of the once great Italian league to see the dangers of this credibility gap.

But it is no time for passing the buck. Yes, the FA exists to protect the image of the game, but it can only achieve this in collaboration with other stakeholders.

The Government needs to stop making platitudes and work closely with the FA - and the Premier League. More managers, like Luton's Mike Newell, must speak out. And, finally, journalists must work in conjunction with the FA, where possible, handing over evidence quickly for investigation.

All concerned need to start making individual prosecutions. It is concrete steps, not grand media gestures, that will save the game.
danny.rogers@haynet.com

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